Austin's Story: Deformational Plagiocephaly

Austin loves playing alongside his dog Buster and reading books before bedtime. He’s exploring new foods and he now sleeps through the night—great news for his mom and dad, Tiffany and Jeff.

Although he was born one month prematurely, Austin is a healthy baby boy. When he was less than 1 month old, Tiffany noticed Austin’s preference to look left and some muscle stiffness in his neck—early signs that Austin might have torticollis. Torticollis is a condition that occurs when a muscle on the side of a baby’s neck is shortened or tightened. The tightened muscle pulls the head toward one side and limits the baby’s ability to turn their head, resulting in a tilted or rotated head position. Austin’s pediatrician later confirmed Tiffany’s suspicions, diagnosing him with torticollis at 2 months old.

Austin’s Treatments and Care

To treat the torticollis, Austin’s pediatrician recommended weekly physical therapy at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare (coincidentally, Tiffany works as a nurse at Gillette). Physical therapists worked with Austin on neck strengthening exercises, “tummy time” and repositioning. Over the course of a month, Austin had improved his range of motion on both sides of his head. By three months old, however, Austin still had a strong preference to look left. Despite efforts with physical therapy and his improved range of motion, Austin had developed a flat spot on the left side of his head.

When Austin turned 4 months old, Tiffany and Jeff brought him to see pediatric craniofacial and plastic surgeon, Robert Wood, M.D. Immediately recognizing signs of the condition, Dr. Wood diagnosed Austin with deformational plagiocephaly. Deformational plagiocephaly, or flat head syndrome, is a condition in which an infant’s head has a flat, uneven or irregular shape. Deformational plagiocephaly is often associated with torticollis. Austin likely developed the condition because his skull bones were softer than those of full-term babies and because his torticollis kept his head in a prolonged, one-sided position.

With guidance from Dr. Wood, Tiffany and Jeff decided to correct Austin’s plagiocephaly using a Gillette CranioCap® orthosis. An orthotic helmet developed specifically for treating plagiocephaly, the Gillette CranioCap® orthosis would gradually round Austin’s head over the next three to four months. That same day, Austin kept busy with toys while Gillette’s Assistive Technology staff scanned his head with special laser technology to create a three-dimensional model of his unique head shape. A lightweight and custom-fit helmet, the Gillette CranioCap® orthosis has a close fit in some areas and is open in others. As Austin’s brain grew, his skull would slowly mold into the open areas of the orthosis, rounding his head over time.

Austin wore the Gillette CranioCap® orthosis 23 hours a day for 13 weeks while continuing to attend regular physical therapy sessions every two weeks. Gillette also coordinated biweekly appointments with orthotists to take place immediately after Austin’s physical therapy appointments. At each appointment, orthotists monitored Austin’s head shape and evaluated his progress. If needed, they made adjustments or reshaped his Gillette CranioCap® orthosis to accommodate or redirect new growth. After the first two weeks of treatment, Tiffany and Jeff had already noticed a significant improvement in Austin’s head shape.

“We are thrilled with the way Austin has been progressing!” - Tiffany

Austin’s Results

During the final two weeks of his treatment, Tiffany and Jeff gradually reduced the amount of time Austin spent in the Gillette CranioCap® orthosis, wearing it only at night. After a total of 15 weeks of treatment, Tiffany and Jeff report that all signs of Austin’s deformational plagiocepahly have all but disappeared and his head shape looks great. In addition, the months of physical therapy sessions paid off because his torticollis has gone away. Today, after successful results, Austin keeps his mom and dad busy while he learns to crawl and meets other exciting milestones.

“Austin has gotten some great results! His torticollis is gone and his head shape looks great.” - Tiffany

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