Chromosomal and Genetic Conditions

Positional Plagiocephaly

Positional Plagiocephaly in Children

Plagiocephaly diagram

Top of head of child with positional plagiocephaly (drawn by Huang MHS)

Plagiocephaly (PLAY-gee-oh-SEF-uh-lee) is a flat spot ont he back or side of a baby's head. It is caused by pressure on the bones of the skull before or after birth. This usually happens because of the way a baby likes to lie (their positional preference) in their first few months of life.

There are many things that could cause positional plagiocephaly.

Children with multiple medical problems or delayed development may have a hard time changing positions. They are more likely to develop positional plagiocephaly than children who can move around more.

Some infants have a strong preference to look in one direction. This can lead to a limited range of motion in the neck from muscles being tight. This is called  torticollis  (PDF). Babies with torticollis might be more likely to develop plagiocephaly than other babies, since they always rest on the same spot on the back of their head.

Premature infants are sometimes more likely to develop plagiocephaly. This is because their skull bones are softer than the skulls of babies born at full term. They also tend to move their heads less often.

In very premature babies, soft skull bones can result in dolichocephaly (DOLL-ee-koe-SEF-uh-lee), or a long and narrow head.

Children who have less room while in the womb are also more likely than other children to develop plagiocephaly. Sometimes this can happen if:

  • There is more than one baby in the womb (as with twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Babies are born to mothers with unusually shaped wombs or uterine fibroids (benign tumors made of fibrous and muscular tissue)

Positional Plagiocephaly at Seattle Children's

Our Craniofacial Center has a special clinic that evaluates and treats positional plagiocephaly. We evaluate and treat almost 600 children per year for this condition.