Kids Health Info

Plagiocephaly - helmet therapy

  • Pronounced: Play-gee-o-kef-a-lee

    Plagiocephaly is the most common craniofacial problem today. Deformational plagiocephaly, also known as positional plagiocephaly, means a mis-shapen or uneven (asymmetrical) head shape. Plagiocephaly does not affect the development of an infant's brain, but if not treated it may change an infant's physical appearance by causing uneven growth of their face and head. See the Kids Health info factsheet:  Plagiocephaly - misshapen head.

    Caring for a child with a helmet

    Helmet therapy can help treat your child's plagiocephaly. The helmet helps to re-shape the skull by taking pressure off the flat area and allowing the skull to grow into the space provided. Helmets work best between five and eight months of age.  Wearing the helmet doesn't hurt and babies usually get used to it very quickly. Parents can feel quite emotional when their child first wears the helmet. It can be helpful to know this is a common feeling and to remember treatment is temporary and outcomes are normally very good. 

    Wearing regime:

    • Helmets are usually worn for a 2 hours on/2 hours off cycle for the first two days to allow you to monitor your child's skin and for your child to get used to the helmet. Following a review approximately two days after fitting, the orthotist will begin your child on a 23 hours a day wearing regime. Reviews are then usually conducted approximately every three weeks by the orthotist.

    Things to look for:

    • There should be some space in the helmet for your child's ears. Make sure their ears sit comfortably in these spaces and the helmet is not twisted.
    • When you take the helmet off, check your child's skin to make sure there is no rubbing, blisters or broken skin (skin breakdown) from the helmet. Mild redness over the high spots of the head is okay. 
    • You can put sorbolene cream on dry skin or mild rashes. You can buy sorbolene from your local chemist or larger supermarkets. 
    • If the dry skin or rash does not get better call your child's orthotist. The telephone number is below.
    • Rather than taking the helmet off during hot weather, it is better to dress your child in light clothing to keep them cool.

    Cleaning your helmet:

    • Your child's head will become sweaty under the helmet. You must wash their hair daily and clean the inside of the helmet with a soft nailbrush or face washer and warm soapy water. Rinse well and towel dry.

    For more information

    Please contact your child's orthotist if you have any queries or concerns about your child's helmet therapy.

    Your Orthotist is ________________________________________________   

    The Royal Children's Hospital     
    Orthotic Prosthetic Unit
    T: (03) 9345 5870
    50 Flemington Rd, Parkville 3052

    Developed by RCH Orthotic Department with material from the Department of Plastic Surgery.  Many thanks to the parents who helped with this fact sheet. First published February 2005. Updated in November 2010.

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.