Plagiocephaly and brachycephaly have both been successfully treated with helmets for many years. Discover some treatment success stories below – simply click a child’s name from the list on the left to view their story.
Parent(s): Nicole and Paul
Yannick Leon Joshua was born on 30 April 2004 through C-section at Plymouth Derriford Hospital. From the moment he was born mother Nicole noticed his very abnormal head shape, on the right-hand side only. His left side looked perfect, but when looking at him from the other side his head and face looked strangely distorted. Looking down on his head, his ears were obviously misaligned and he had a huge flat spot on the right-hand side of the back of his head, plus a pronounced bulge on the right-hand side of his forehead.
However, none of the health professionals who examined Yannick seemed to notice – or if they noticed they did not say anything. This included the paediatrician/neonatalist who examined Yannick after his birth and on the ward, the various midwives that looked after mother and baby in the hospital and at home and the health visitor and family GP. As nobody remarked on his extraordinary head shape, Nicole thought she was just seeing things, or that it would improve as he grew older.
Yannick always slept with his head resting on the flat spot, and when laying on his mat or in his car seat his head automatically rolled onto his flat side, eventually making a bad deformation even worse. He also started to develop a slight under-bite, his right eye seemed to grow bigger and the bulge on his forehead got worse.
It took a rainy Sunday afternoon when Yannick was almost four months old for his parents to finally jump into action: Nicole was carrying Yannick on her arm whilst Paul was standing on a ladder fixing something, when he looked down on Yannick's head and said with quite some concern: "Just look at his head from up here – it's really strangely shaped... do you think we should see someone?" Nicole got straight onto the internet and entered terms such as 'skull deformities in babies' into various search engines.
After a while, she came across a plagiocephaly website which featured pictures and schematics of plagiocephaly, brachycephaly and scaphocephaly and was immediately able to identify Yannick's condition as plagio. Now that Nicole had the name of the condition she could specifically look for more information.
The family made an appointment with their GP the following day, and Nicole printed out some information from the internet to take with her. The doctor had never heard of plagiocephaly but was happy to look it up during the appointment; he compared the symptoms described with Yannick and his head. Nicole asked him to look down on Yannick's head and he turned around and said: "Yes, I see what you mean!"
However, he also admitted that in his time as a GP he had never seen anything like this before and just did not have the knowledge nor experience to recommend any course of action. He was almost apologetic in referring the family to the paediatric department at Derriford.
While waiting for the appointment to come through, Nicole carried out more research into the condition and through a web forum made contact with other parents based in the UK. They all told her the same: no treatment was available on the NHS and the appointment with the paediatric would be a waste of time. Instead she was given the name of a specialist in Germany who came highly recommended by all the parents she had contact with – as a German herself, Nicole contacted the specialist directly.
He replied promptly to her email and recommended repositioning first, providing the parents with some hints and tips, and asked them to contact him again if no improvement was visible within six weeks. Although they began to reposition Yannick, his parents decided to book an appointment at his UK clinic in London as there was already an eight-week waiting time to see him.
The appointment letter from the NHS finally arrived, with an appointment scheduled about two months after the meeting with the family GP. Although she wanted to cancel the appointment, Nicole's husband suggested they go anyway and see what the neonatal department had to say – just in case they did offer treatment on the NHS.
The family was seen by a specialist at Derriford who, without much examination, confirmed a diagnosis of positional plagiocephaly, but said it was mild and nothing to worry about as it would correct itself – and that if it didn't correct completely it would be covered by hair anyway. Nicole and Paul asked about helmet therapy, to which the paediatrician replied that there was much stuff available to buy on the internet these days, but he was more for non-intervention with children as most things sort themselves out anyway. He ultimately said that there was nothing he could really offer Yannick.
As the family had the appointment with the German specialist already lined up, they were not too concerned about the lack of help, and so left. They continued to reposition Yannick until their appointment came around. The specialist examined Yannick properly, measuring his head with special instruments, and diagnosed an asymmetry of 24mm – classified as severe plagiocephaly. He then discussed the possibility of helmet therapy and explained the pros and cons. The family decided to go ahead and the cast was made the same day to save them another long trip to London; they were able to pick up the helmet just two weeks later.
Yannick was fitted with his helmet on 15 November 2004 and wore it for the prescribed 23 hours a day, seven days a week. During this time no problems were encountered; neither pressure points nor any other complications. Yannick completely accepted the helmet and was not troubled by it one little bit.
The family had its first and only check-up on 23 January 2005 at the London clinic. The specialist measured Yannick's head and the staggering result was an asymmetry of just 5mm: the visual improvement was impressive and Nicole and Paul were delighted. At the specialist's suggestion, Yannick underwent a further six weeks of treatment before leaving the helmet off.
Yannick has now finished his treatment and has asymmetry at less than 5mm. His parents saw further improvement but did not make another trip to London for measurement, as they were more than satisfied with the results. Yannick still has a slight flat spot at the back of his head, which is really only visible when he has wet hair, but his parents perhaps only notice it because they know it is there. His face is also now even and symmetrical.
Yannick began treatment at around six months old and finished at ten months, the age bracket at which the best and fastest results can be seen. Nicole and Paul have nothing but praise for the specialist; understandably they are rather less impressed with the NHS.
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