Craniofacial deformity in patients with uncorrected congenital muscular torticollis: an assessment from three-dimensional computed tomography imaging

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2004 Jan;113(1):24-33. doi: 10.1097/01.PRS.0000096703.91122.69.


Congenital muscular torticollis is caused by idiopathic fibrosis of the sternocleidomastoid muscle that restricts movement and pulls the head toward the involved side. Deformation of the craniofacial skeleton will develop if the restriction is not released and result in aesthetic and functional problems. The purpose of this study was to use three-dimensional computed tomography imaging for qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the craniofacial deformity in a series of patients with uncorrected congenital muscular torticollis, and to assess age as a precipitating factor for severity of the deformity. A total of 14 patients from 1 month to 24 years of age were included. The skull images were rotated into standard orientation and reconfigured for evaluation of the cranium, endocranial base, and facial skeletal structures. The midlines of cranial base and facial bone, angle of midline deviation, width of each hemicranium and hemiface, and the orbital index were defined and measured. The results showed that the cranium and cranial base deformation took place as early as in infant stage, with the most prominent change occurring in the posterior cranial fossa. Facial bone asymmetry started to appear after 5 years of age, at which time the mandibular and occlusal abnormalities were observed. The deformity of the orbits and maxilla occurred at an older age, characterized by the deviation and decreased vertical height on the affected side. The severity of the observed deformities increased with age. The angle of midline deviation was 2.48 +/- 1.68 degrees in the cranial base and 3.26 +/- 3.28 degrees on the facial bone. Both of the midline deviations were significantly correlated with age. Compared with the contralateral side, the width of the ipsilateral posterior hemicranium was longer (54.36 +/- 6.72 mm versus 50.81 +/- 6.55 mm), and the width of the ipsilateral lower hemiface was shorter (35.30 +/- 7.27 mm versus 43.49 +/- 11.34 mm). Both differences were statistically significant. Measurement of the orbital index demonstrated a significantly flatter orbit on the ipsilateral side (89.48 +/- 0.11 versus 92.74 +/- 0.08). This study showed that the cranium and cranial base deformity occurred early in patients with uncorrected torticollis, while the facial bone deformity occurred in childhood stage. The cranial and facial deformity became more severe with age. Early release of the muscle restriction is advised to prevent craniofacial deformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cephalometry
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / complications
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / diagnostic imaging*
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Skull / diagnostic imaging*
  • Skull / pathology
  • Skull Base / diagnostic imaging
  • Tomography, Spiral Computed*
  • Torticollis / congenital*
  • Torticollis / diagnostic imaging*