Occipital plagiocephaly: a critical review of the literature

J Neurosurg. 1998 Jul;89(1):24-30. doi: 10.3171/jns.1998.89.1.0024.


Object: The literature on occipital plagiocephaly (OP) was critically reviewed to determine the feasibility of establishing treatment recommendations.

Methods: Using standard computerized search techniques, medical literature databases containing peer-review articles dating from 1966 were queried for key words related to OP. The titles of all articles were scanned for relevance, and copies of potentially relevant articles published in English were reviewed. Articles in which treatment was discussed were categorized according to their weight of evidence as Class I (prospective randomized controlled trials), Class II (clinical studies in which data are collected prospectively or retrospective analyses based on clearly reliable data), and Class III (most studies based on retrospectively collected data) to evaluate their contribution to developing a consensus on the treatment of OP. Of the 4308 articles identified, all but 89 were excluded. Based on the review of these articles, the actual incidence of OP is unknown, and no population-based studies of its incidence or prevalence exist. The reported incidence of lambdoid craniosynostosis ranges from 3 to 20% with differences in diagnostic criteria accounting for the variability. With the possible exception of a lambdoid suture that is replaced by a dense ridge of bone, no other diagnostic criteria have been agreed on. There were no Class I studies and only one Class II study provided comparisons of outcomes in more than one treatment group with outcomes in an untreated group. Recommended treatment options included observation only, mechanical interventions, and a variety of surgical techniques.

Conclusions: Controlled clinical trials are needed before any form of intervention can be recommended for the treatment of OP. If surgery, which is expensive and potentially dangerous, is to continue to play a role in the management of this condition, efforts should be made to determine if patients with untreated OP have suffered from lack of treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Craniosynostoses / diagnosis
  • Craniosynostoses / etiology
  • Craniosynostoses / physiopathology
  • Craniosynostoses / surgery
  • Craniosynostoses / therapy*
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Facial Asymmetry / physiopathology
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Occipital Bone / abnormalities*
  • Parietal Bone / abnormalities
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome