Plagiocephaly - What does it mean?
The meaning of plagiocephaly is all in the name, 'plagio' meaning oblique or slanting and 'cephaly' referring to the head or skull.
So in English it means - that your child has developed a flattening of the back of their head.
Now this can occur in-utero (so whilst in your stomach during pregnancy) or after birth and is a consequence of repeated pressure on one side of the head causing a flattening of the still 'soft' skull. This is usually a consequence of your infant developing a preference to rotate their head one way and with this repeated turning over time (whilst on a hard surface ie lying on their back) they develop a flattening.
Why is it seen more commonly?
Now since the introduction of the 'Back To Sleep' campaign in 1992 (now known as the 'Safe to Sleep' campaign) it has meant that there is a huge emphasis on children being placed on their back to sleep. As children spend most of their time sleeping, it is really important that during their 'wake' cycles that they are not kept on their back and instead are placed on their side or their tummy to play. This will allow them to strengthen the muscles of their neck whilst also offloading the back of their head.
Will there be a change premanently to my infant's head?
Now the role of your GP, paediatrician or paediatric physiotherapist will be to clear that there is no premature fusing of your child's sutures to result in the appearance of head flattening. If this has been cleared, then the flattening of your child's head is purely aesthetic and does not affect their underlying brain development. In saying this, plagiocephly is associated with an increased delay in gross motor milestones and if the flattening worsens can result in facial
asymmetry (see the bossing changes that can occur over time) so it is important to get on top of it early whilst the skull has the best opportunity to remould.