How do I know if my infant needs a cranial remoulding orthosis?
There are certain signs that may indicate that your infant needs a cranial remoulding orthosis. However, please keep in mind that some degree of asymmetry in the skull is normal for everyone, so it is the magnitude of the asymmetry that indicates whether treatment with a cranial remoulding orthosis is warranted. If you recognize that your infant’s face is not symmetrical, their head is higher or wider than normal, or that there is flatness on the back side of their head, you may want to visit your physician for further assessment. After 2 months of no or very slow improvement from a physiotherapist or chiropractitioner your baby should be brought in for an assessment.
What is the ideal age for cranial remoulding orthosis treatment?
The best age for treatment is between 4 and 7 months when the skull is growing at the fastest rate. However, cranial remoulding orthoses can be used successfully between 3 and 18 months of age. Caregivers should try to reposition the baby for at least two months prior to initiating treatment with a cranial remoulding orthosis unless the infant is older than 7 months. At this point, infants can reposition themselves, and caregiver efforts to reposition are often futile.
What if my paediatrician tells me that my infant’s head shape will correct on its own?
Historically, many head shape deformities present at birth disappeared within about 6 weeks because babies were placed in several different positions during the day and slept on their tummies at night. Since the Back to Sleep program was initiated in 1992, these head shape deformities often persist because babies sleep on their back all night and spend extended time on their backs during the day in infant carriers/ prams, swings, car seats, etc. Parents must be vigilant about changing the infant’s position more than in any other period of child rearing. Babies that spend most of their time on their backs in the early months roll and crawl later than usual, which results in even more time before the infant can actively reposition themselves. The best way to help your infant’s head correct “on its own” is to place your infant in a variety of positions during the time your infant is awake and supervised. This will encourage your infant to actively move their head through a full range of motion, strengthen their neck, shoulder and trunk muscles, and minimize pressure on the back of the head. More suggested repositioning activities are available in “Tummy Time Tools”, a document that can be downloaded from Orthomerica’s website. It is possible that your efforts to reposition your infant will be rewarded with a more symmetrical head shape that does not require further intervention. However, if your infant’s head does not change after two months of alternate positioning, make sure your paediatrician understands that you have tried prone and other positions to help make the infant’s head more symmetrical, and the skull has not corrected. Then ask your paediatrician if your infant would benefit from a cranial remoulding orthosis, and/or request a referral to a craniofacial specialist.
Why is treatment more effective between 4 – 7 months
than at other ages?
Even though the head grows fastest during the first 3 months of life, this time period is best spent actively repositioning your infant to encourage more symmetry. Between 4 and 7 months of age, the head grows about 1 cm per month*, and this rapid growth can be harnessed within the orthosis to produce rapid change in the desired direction of growth. At this point, the infant is starting to develop more head control and can tolerate the additional 6-8 ounces of weight from the helmet. It is actually the infant’s own growth that is the most active part of any CRM orthotic treatment program. The orthosis is specially designed to make total contact in the areas of the skull where growth needs to be curbed and allow space in the areas where growth is desirable. Between 8-12 months, the skull still grows quickly, but the rate is reduced to 0.5 cm per month*. Between 13-18 months, the rate drops below 0.5 cm per month*, and the skull begins to get thicker. Change is still possible in these older babies, but change is slower and generally requires longer treatment programs.
Once a scan is taken, how long will it take to get my child’s cranial remoulding orthosis?
Ideally, your child will be fitted with a cranial remoulding orthosis within 14 days of the scanning date to assure proper fit and function.
How often will my infant need to see the orthotist for follow-up and/or adjustments?
Frequency of follow-up visits usually depends on the severity of the initial head shape, age of the infant, and individual treatment protocols.
Typically, the infant is seen a week after the initial fitting and approximately every 2 to 3 weeks thereafter, throughout the course of the treatment program. Younger infants may require more frequent follow up appointments since their heads are growing so rapidly.
Author Kirsten Gibson, B-Tech (tut)
Founder, Director and Senior Orthotist Prosthetist at Gibson Orthotics.
Vice Chair of The South African Orthotic Prosthetic Association.
Kirsten Gibson owner and founder of Gibson Orthotics is a passionate O & P Clinician with notable experience in Paediatrics and Lymphology. Actively involved in Improving patient and professionals knowledge on the subjects of O & P.