Nonsurgical treatment of deformational plagiocephaly: a systematic review

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008 Aug;162(8):719-27. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.162.8.719.


Objective: To evaluate and summarize the evidence comparing nonsurgical therapies in the treatment of infants with deformational plagiocephaly.

Data sources: Scientific articles and abstracts published in English between January 1978 and August 2007 were searched from 5 online literature databases, along with a manual search of conference proceedings.

Study selection: Studies were selected and appraised for methodological quality by 2 reviewers independently using a Critical Appraisal Skills Programme form (cohort criteria).

Interventions: Molding helmet therapy vs head repositioning therapy.

Main outcome measure: Success rate of the treatment.

Results: A total of 3793 references were retrieved. There were no randomized controlled trials. Only 7 cohort studies met the inclusion criteria. Five of the 7 studies presented evidence that molding therapy is more effective than repositioning, even with the biases favoring the repositioning groups. In the molding groups, the asymmetry was more severe and the infants were older. The infants who failed to respond to repositioning therapy were also switched to molding therapy. The treatment outcomes from the other 2 studies were difficult to assess because of flaws in their study design. Finally, the relative improvement of using molding therapy was calculated from one study. It was about 1.3 times greater than with repositioning therapy.

Conclusion: The studies showed considerable evidence that molding therapy may reduce skull asymmetry more effectively than repositioning therapy. However, definitive conclusions on the relative effectiveness of these treatments were tempered by potential biases in these studies. Further research is warranted.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Plagiocephaly, Nonsynostotic / diagnosis*
  • Plagiocephaly, Nonsynostotic / rehabilitation*
  • Plagiocephaly, Nonsynostotic / surgery
  • Posture*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Supine Position
  • Treatment Outcome