Frequently asked Questions
1. How Common is Plagipcephaly?
There are no exact numbers, although anecdotally the number of babies affected has increased significantly since the “Back to Sleep” campaign. Recent research suggests that almost 1 in 2 babies has positional plagiocephaly.
2. Why treat Plagiocephaly?
Patients with severely asymmetrical ears can develop bite anomalies. This is because the lower jaws mostly grow in the area of the jaw joints, which, in turn, are part of the boney complex of the inner ear.
Some doctors also report headaches or migraines, although a link has not been proven.
The condition causes aesthetic problems too, which can have psychosocial consequences in later life. Children and adolescents could be teased because of their unusual head shape. That is why the treatment is not merely “cosmetic” – a label that has angered many parents and therapists for years.
3. Does the helmet restrict Brain Growth?
Not at all, since head growth continues to follow the percentile curve. There are no restrictions in overall growth during treatment.
4. Are there any risks accociated with the helmet therapy?
We have never experienced any problems with helmet therapy aside from occasional skin problems such as infections, pressure marks, and irritations. None of these are serious or long-lasting.
5. When is the ideal time to treat a baby?
Ideally, repositioning (moving head whilst sleeping; tummy time whilst awake) should start as soon as the deformity is detected. This can be supported by physiotherapy to the neck. In some babies the deformity can be completely corrected by these simple measures. But if your baby’s head-shape does not improve, it is time to see one of our surgeons, ideally around 4 months.
Given an appropriate diagnosis, the ideal time to start helmet treatment for moderate and severe deformities is 4 to 6 months. After that, spontaneous correction is not likely to occur.
By 12 months, head growth has slowed so much that treatment only makes sense in exceptional circumstances. If treatment is started in the second year of life, full correction is often no longer possible.
6. How long does helmet therapy take?
Either as long as it takes to level out the deformity, or until further growth is not to be expected. Obviously, the seriousness of the deformity plays a decisive role, the more serious the deformity, the longer the treatment; and, the younger the patient, the shorter the treatment.
Average treatment for moderate deformities is about 6 months. However, treatment time and the outcome will depend on many factors, on the age of the baby, severity and helmet design. Length of treatment varies from patient to patient. Please do book an appointment to discuss it more in details with one of our surgeons.
7. Will the helmet upset the baby
Children get used to the helmet very quickly. The younger the baby, the quicker they get used to it. An experienced surgeon will fit the helmet correctly, and your baby will not suffer at all. Remember that the helmet will keep your child warmer. So try to dress him or her in lighter clothes while they wear it.
8. How does the helmet actually work?
Each helmet is customised for the patient. Prominent parts of the head are hindered from growing further, whilst normal growth continues in the flattened areas. When the flattened areas have “caught up” with the prominent areas, the head will look “normal”.
9. Will the NHS cover the costs?
At present, helmet therapy is not generally covered under the NHS, although a few of our patients have received funding from their local PCTs. All our patients are treated privately by our doctors. We are working hard to promote awareness of plagiocephaly amongst the medical community. Please help us to spread the word!
10. Will private insurance cover the costs?
Some of our patients have had success claiming back some of the costs from their private health insurance companies. In these cases, the insurance companies typically cover the consultation costs with our surgeons, but not the cost of the helmet. All these refunds have been made on a case-by-case basis, and we can provide itemised invoices upon request.
It is important that you have a discussion with your insurance company before you see us, to ascertain whether or not they will cover the costs.