Brachycephaly refers to the condition where the head is disproportionately wide. Brachycephaly can result from the premature fusion of the coronal sutures or from external deformation (most commonly prolonged lying on the back — a positional deformity). The head flattens uniformly, causing a much wider and shorter head. Increased head height is also common in children with brachycephaly.
Cranial asymmetry is more common today in infants than ever before. The American Academy of Pediatrics installed the Back to Sleep program in 1992, urging parents to lay their babies on their backs to sleep. This has since lowered the rate of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by 40%. But, combined with rigid baby carriers that double as car seats often used during daytime hours to hold and carry young babies, this has increased the amount of Plagiocephaly, Brachycephaly, and Scaphocephaly seen in infants today.
Cranial remodeling helmets are used in children aged three to 18 months old to correct the conditions Plagiocephaly, Brachycephaly, and Scaphocephaly. Cranial remodeling helmets are very successful in treating these conditions.
When your baby is 3-12 months old, their head is growing and changing at a startling rate; this is normal and essential. Because of this growth, cranial remodeling helmets are most effective during this time. The helmet is a lightweight plastic shell with a foam liner and acts as a brace to redirect the growth of the baby’s skull. Most treatment times started between 3 and 12 months of age are 3-6 months, many being only 3-4 months. After 1 year of age, the rate of cranial growth decreases, potentially causing treatment time to increase. Before the age of 3 months, most infants respond well to repositioning efforts and lack the head support needed to manage the weight of the helmet.
Corrective helmets have been in use since 1979 and have an established track record of safely and successfully treating cranial asymmetry. A helmet does not squeeze or compress the baby’s head; rather, it serves as a passive restraint to growth in areas that are overgrown while allowing uninhibited growth in areas that are flat. Studies have confirmed that this process does not inhibit brain and head growth, but merely redirects the growth to correct the shape of the head.
- Because the baby’s head is constantly growing, babies usually wear the helmet 21 to 23 hours a day to get the maximal effect.
- Helmets are most effective in younger infants (4 to 8 months old), who are at the age of fastest cranial growth.
- The average treatment period with a helmet is usually 3 to 6 months, depending on the age of the infant and the severity of the condition.
- Careful and frequent monitoring is required. Helmets must be prescribed by a licensed physician with significant craniofacial experience.
Is Your Child a Candidate for a Cranial Molding Helmet?
You will need to check with your insurance company to find at out what their criteria are for helmet coverage. Most require at least moderate asymmetry per guidlines below:
- For phagiocephaly, usually oblique cranial length ratio (OCLR) greater than or equal to 106%, cranial vault assymetry (CVA) greater than or equal to 6mm orbitotragial depth asymmetry (OTDA) greater than or equal to 6mm, or skull base assymetry (SBA) greater than or equal to 6mm.
- For brachycephaly, usually cephalic index of greater than or equal to 93%
- For Scaphocephaly, usuall cephalic index of less than or equal to 76%
READ MORE ON CRANIAL HELMET CARE & USE