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A pilot study, a specially designed pillow may prevent developmental plagiocephaly by reducing pressure from the infant head


Anna Ohman


Developmental plagiocephaly (DP) has been an increasing problem since the successful “back to sleep campaign”. The referrals for DP have increased by >400% during the years 2004 to 2008. Many infants spend less time in the prone position nowadays and some of the risk factors for DP are as follows: less than 3 times per day for the tummy time, torticollis and slow achievement of motor milestones. There is a need for better information to the parents but also for other strategies to prevent DP. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of a special pillow and thus to reduce pressure on the infant head. Method: infants aged zero to two months were included in the study. They were randomized to either intervention group or control group. Head shape was investigated on two occasions, on the second occasion motor development, mobility and muscle function of the neck were also investigated. The parents were asked about tummy time and sleep position. All infants were investigated by the same physical therapist, blinded to group belonging. Result: seven infants had CVAI >3.5 on the last assessment, five of these had not used any method to reduce pressure. Fishers exact test showed a tendency where infants with reduced pressure on the head had less DP (P 0.08). Paired t test showed significant decrease in CVAI for the infants who had had reduced pressure on the head (P 0.01). Among these infants the CVAI was zero for 47% in the last assessment. For the infants who had not had a reduction of pressure on the head, there was no indication of a decrease of CVAI (P 0.45), and only 12% of these infants had a CVAI that was zero in the last assessment. Conclusion: this pilot study shows that a specially designed pillow may prevent DP in young infants. However, a larger sample is needed to confirm or disprove this. The study is planned to go on until there are 200 participants.

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'Flat head syndrome' now affects 47 percent of babies and guidelines to prevent sudden infant death syndrome could be to blame

  • Plagiocephaly, or flat spots on the head, are now found in nearly half of infants
  • Though treatable, the condition can lead to permanent malformations

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