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Long-term outcomes in treatment of deformational plagiocephaly and brachycephaly using helmet therapy and repositioning: a longitudinal cohort study

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Deformational plagiocephaly and/or brachycephaly (DPB) is a misshapen head presenting at birth or shortly thereafter, caused by extrinsic forces on an infant’s malleable cranium. There are two treatment methods available for DPB: helmeting and repositioning. Little is known about the long-term outcomes of these two treatment options. The purpose of this study was to examine children who received helmeting or repositioning therapy for DPB as infants and compare the long-term head shape outcomes of the two groups.


A longitudinal cohort study design was used to evaluate change in head shape of the two groups. One hundred children (50 helmeted, 50 repositioned) were initially evaluated at 6 months or younger for DPB. Anthropometric skull measurements taken as infants before treatment were compared with measurements taken for this study. Inclusion criteria included initial clinic visit at age 6 months or younger, evaluation by the same practitioner, and current age 2–10 years. Cephalic index and cranial vault asymmetry were calculated based on caliper measurements.


Data from 100 children were evaluated for this study. Significant differences between the treatment groups in the mean change in cephalic index (p = 0.003) and cranial vault asymmetry (p < 0.001) were found; the children that used helmet therapy demonstrated greater improvement.


This is one of the larger published long-term outcome studies comparing children that used helmets and repositioning to treat their DPB as infants. The data suggest that infants will have more improvement in head shape with a helmet than with repositioning.

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Mary Michaeleen Cradock, PhD

Maithe Enriquez, PhD, RN, ANP

Alex A. Kane, MD

Patricia J. Kelly, PhD, MPH, APRN


This study was funded by grants from the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) Foundation and St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Correspondence to Sybill D. Naidoo.

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Naidoo, S.D., Skolnick, G.B., Patel, K.B. et al. Long-term outcomes in treatment of deformational plagiocephaly and brachycephaly using helmet therapy and repositioning: a longitudinal cohort study. Childs Nerv Syst 31, 1547–1552 (2015).

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