Plagiocephaly is a flattening of the head. The growth of a child can be rapid and parents may not notice a child favoring one side of the head or the other. If a child favors the back, left or right side of the head, plagiocephaly can occur.

Some cases of plagiocephaly also affect neck range of motion. Researchers have now found that the flattened head is more than a physical disorder. Plagiocephaly could be responsible for an increased number of ear infections.

An increase in plagiocephaly may be linked to doctor's recommendations to place baby on their back in the crib. While sleeping on the back is safer, it can increase the chance of head flattening. Doctors from the Wake Forest University Medical Center interviewed 1,259 parents about the child's history of ear infections. When the child suffered from mild head flattening, 50% suffered from an ear infection before the age of one. This number is consistent with children who do not suffer from plagiocephaly.

Fifty-four percent of the children who were diagnosed with severe plagiocephaly, however, suffered from ear infections before turning one. That is a 4% increase in ear infections in children with severe head flattening.

Doctors believe there is a link between the flattened skull and the effectiveness of the middle ear. If the middle ear is unable to drain fluid properly, that fluid can build up and cause an inner ear infection, which is the most common form of infant ear infection.

Plagiocephaly can be treated with a variety of therapies. A molding helmet can be used to reshape the head into a proper circle while altered sleeping positioning can reduce the pressure on the favored side of the head. Therapy may also be needed to regain full range of motion in the neck.

Source: Journal of Craniofacial Surgery - September 2009

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