What to expect
Not every abnormal head shape needs to be treated with helmet therapy.
If noticed within the first three months, less severe deformities can be treated by positioning the baby differently (moving head whilst sleeping; tummy time whilst awake) or by neck stretching exercises (physiotherapy).
Specialist pillows and mattresses are also available from suppliers. These can be effective until the baby is six months old. That is why some people choose to wait to see whether the head shape evens out.
Nonetheless, if you have any concerns at this early age, our surgeons are more than happy to show you some simple neck exercises.
They are also qualified to diagnose craniosynostosis, which is caused by premature fusion of the skull sutures.
Although this condition is rare, it often needs surgical correction.
Please call us if you would like to make a free appointment for some advice. This might prevent the need for a helmet later on.
We will also look at photos of your baby’s head free of charge. You can send them by clicking here.
The circumference of an infant’s head grows by 12cm in the first year, and by 2.5cm in the second. So if babies are treated early enough, helmet therapy can be 100% effective, even with extreme deformity.
However, the outcome varies from patient to patient and depend on many factors, eg the more serious the deformity, the longer the treatment. And conversely, the younger the patient, the quicker the treatment.
We recommend that you visit our clinic before your baby turns 4-5 months old.
An asymmetry of up to 0.4 cm is normal.
An asymmetry of less than 1.0 cm (0.4 inches) is classified as a mild deformity. These require no further therapy except, possibly, repositioning the child, and/or physiotherapy. Such minor deformities gradually diminish later as the head continues to grow. Relative to the size of the head they become less apparent.
An asymmetry from 1.0 cm to 2.0 cm (0.4 to 0.8 inches) is classified as a moderate deformity. Helmet treatment should be considered.
An asymmetry of more than 2.0 cm (more than 0.8 inches) is classified as a severe deformity. Again, helmet treatment should be considered. These deformities will be clearly visible in adults too.
Having ruled out any underlying health conditions, the surgeon may determine that helmet therapy is appropriate. If so, and if the parents wish to go ahead with the treatment, then (as a rule of thumb):
The surgeon will take a scan of the baby’s head, in order to get an individually shaped helmet. We use a Canfield Vectra 3D Imaging System to capture a 3D image of your baby’s head. No laser – and certainly no radiation – is involved. The Vectra system takes fifteen digital photographs at the same time, giving 100% accuracy.
A couple of weeks after this, the baby needs to come back to the clinic to have the helmet fitted correctly. Please be aware that this appointment can take up to two hours.
From this point, the baby will need to wear the helmet for 23 hours each day. The helmet has an outer plastic shell with a foam lining, and is customised for the patient by the surgeon. The helmet will hinder growth in prominent areas and encourage it in the flattened parts.
Depending on the age and level of deformity, the surgeon will schedule three to four further check-ups for your child. The helmet will be readjusted at each check-up, to continue the re-shaping process. Average treatment time is 5-6 months.Please note that treatment options and success of treatment depend on many different factors as pointed out above, eg the age of the baby, severity of deformity at the start, accuracy of the initial image used to design the helmet and most of all the helmet design itself. Outcome might vary from patient to patient. Please do contact our surgeons for a face to face assessment.
We will look at photos of your baby’s head free of charge. You can send them by clicking here. The initial consultation is also free.
The entire treatment costs £2,000, which can be paid in four monthly instalments. This is the cost regardless of the number of appointments or duration of the treatment.
For financial assistance, please contact us.
Please see the two websites below for more information about funding and fundraising. Both enable the user to set up JustGiving pages. Donations through JustGiving are eligible for Gift Aid, which adds 25% to the funds raised. Plus, raising funds also raises awareness of the condition and its treatment.
Headstart4Babies also distributes grants.