The Helmet Clinic at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center specializes in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating children with head or cranial deformities between the ages of 4 to 12 months. The only clinic of its kind in the region, we have been diagnosing and correcting head-shaped deformities that occur due to deformational plagiocephaly, torticollis, or other head or facial deformities for the past 20 years.
Conditions We Diagnose & Treat
Congenital Muscular TorticollisWe also see infants with congenital muscular torticollis, a condition in which an infant’s neck muscle is shortened, causing the neck to twist. While we can diagnose this condition, treatment is achieved through sessions with our physical therapists and does not require helmet therapy. A physical therapist evaluates all patients who come to the helmet clinic.
CraniosynostosisWe also diagnose craniosynostosis, a condition that involves premature fusion of one or more cranial sutures, often resulting in an abnormal head shape. This condition is treated primarily through surgical means and will require referral to our craniofacial surgical specialists.
Deformational PlagiocephalyMost head-shaped deformities we treat fall into the category of deformational plagiocephaly, an uneven or irregular head shape caused by pressures on the skull that usually occurs before birth.
These pressures on the skull can occur due to an early drop into the mother’s pelvis before delivery, breech positioning and delivery, pregnancy with twins or multiples, an unusually large baby, a pregnancy with decreased amniotic fluid, or a mother with a small pelvis.
Head-shaped deformities can occur after birth as well. Causes after birth include sleeping in the same position all of the time or constantly sitting in a car seat or an infant seat.
Deformational plagiocephaly is a cosmetic issue and does not compromise your child’s developmental or functional abilities.
Treatment of deformational plagiocephaly and other cranial deformities is available through the use of a cranial reshaping helmet. A helmet will be prescribed if our doctor feels that your child’s head shape shows moderate to severe changes.
Some infants with mild deformational plagiocephaly will improve on their own. Infants who do not improve should begin helmet therapy between 4 to 8 months of age, although 5 to 6 months is the optimal timeframe for the best results. If you choose not to pursue helmet therapy, your child’s current head shape will most likely remain the same. Occasionally, it may improve or worsen slightly depending on positioning and your baby’s age.
How Helmet Therapy Works
Helmet therapy works by making a custom fit helmet for your child. A laser scan will be taken of your baby’s head, which will be used to develop the mold for their helmet. As your baby’s brain grows, the skull is slowly pushed into the open areas inside of the helmet, producing a rounding of the skull. The process is gradual, safe, and pain-free.
Helmet therapy does not cause headaches or hair loss. Most children adjust to the helmet in a few days. There are little or no side effects. The helmet can be warm, making your baby’s head sweat. Occasionally, skin irritations can occur. Frequent cleansing and break periods can resolve this problem.
The length of helmet therapy varies for each child. Generally, 3 to 4 months will be needed to obtain an adequate change in head shape. The average length of helmet therapy is 4 to 6 months. Your management of the helmet therapy and commitment to using the helmet directly influences the results.
Forehead problems are often not corrected with helmet therapy. Helmet therapy will not change the position of ears or cheekbones.
The following outlines a general evaluation and treatment schedule:
EvaluationYour child will be evaluated by a physician to identify a diagnosis and to determine if your child will benefit from helmet therapy.
ScanThe first step in crafting your helmet involves scanning your infant’s head. Scanning takes only minutes to complete and is performed in the Helmet Lab. The scan does not require X-ray exposure.
FittingThe second step in crafting your helmet is a fitting. This process takes approximately 1 hour to complete and will take place in our Helmet Lab.
Follow-up AppointmentOnce your baby is in the helmet, we would like to see them once a month for follow-up. At these appointments, you will meet with the occupational therapist. We will discuss any concerns that you have and make appropriate alterations to the helmet. These appointments last approximately 15 to 30 minutes.
Once everyone is happy with the shape of your infant’s head, we will schedule one last appointment with our clinic physician. Our physician will review visit data and growth measurements, perform a clinical assessment of your child’s head shape, and make recommendations. This last appointment is an important step. It helps to ensure that your child has received the maximum benefit from their helmet therapy experience.
We recommend that you check with your insurance company before your clinic appointment about potential coverage for helmet therapy. Many insurance companies do not consider this treatment as medically necessary and thus will not pay for it.
To schedule an appointment with the Helmet Clinic, call 402-955-4168.
For Referring Providers
The Physicians’ Priority Line is your 24-hour link to pediatric specialists at Children’s for referrals, emergency and urgent consults, physician-to-physician consults, admissions, and transport services. Call 855-850-KIDS (5437).
Learn more about referring patients.