Treatment of Deformational Plagiocephaly With Physiotherapy

J Craniofac Surg. 2019 Oct;30(7):2008-2013. doi: 10.1097/SCS.0000000000005665.


Non-synostotic plagiocephaly consists in an asymmetry of the skull due to mechanical forces applied in utero or postnatally: main differential diagnosis is with true synostotic asymmetry, which is caused by the premature closure of a suture. The correction of positional forms is mostly conservative, with 3 main strategies: counterpositioning, physiotherapy and helmet therapy. There is no synthesized evidence on which is the most effective. The Authors evaluate the modification of antropometric measurments before and after a pediatric physical therapy program in a sample of patients with non-synostotic skull asymmetry, in order to evaluate the improvements in the skull shape. The hypothesis being tested was that physical therapy alone could improve the antropometric measurments. The authors enrolled in this study 24 patients diagnosed of non-synostotic asymmetry, clinically and with ultrasound, referred to the Maxillo-facial Unit of Policlinico Umberto I, Rome, within 2013 and 2016. A standardized pediatric physical therapy intervention program was designed: it consisted in a combination of excercises and manipulative procedures to reduce positional preference, musculoskeletal disorders and cranial deformity. Infants received 16 sessions of physical therapy, of 40 minutes each, once a week, for four months. The Authors evaluate the variation of four anthropometric measurments, performed before and after the physical therapy program: Argenta scale, Oblique Diameter Difference Index (ODDI), Cranial Proportional Index (CPI) or Cephalic Ratio (CR), Cranial Vault Asymmetry Index (CVAI). Craniometric evaluations were extrapolated by standardized 2D digital photographs of frontal, sagittal and transverse planes, by the same physician to minimize bias. The management of positional cranial deformities is still controversially discussed and especially the effects of physiotherapy and osteopathy have been only marginally researched. Statistical analysis revealed the effectiveness of the protocol: all anthropometric measurements improved with a high rate, major in youngest children (P < 0.5) and in more severe first presentations (P < 0.05 or P < 0.01). The results suggest manipulative approach may improve the outcome in the long term follow up of cranial asymmetries.

MeSH terms

  • Cephalometry
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Photography
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Plagiocephaly, Nonsynostotic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Plagiocephaly, Nonsynostotic / therapy*
  • Skull / diagnostic imaging
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography