Between 10-20% of all infants are born with skull distortions and asymmetry. Many times, already during the first weeks of the infant's life, the parents discover that the child's skull is asymmetrical and looks as if one or both of the sides of the head are flattened. This condition is mainly due to positional plagiocephaly, or flat head syndrome, where the head is misshapen as a result of exterior pressure.
This pressure can be caused by the child lying on the back for a long time in the same position. The biggest change occurs during the child\s first months of life, when the skull bone is flexible and can become easily distorted. It is important to know that a flat head does not affect the development of the infant's brain, and the reason for treatment is to improve the aesthetic shape of the head, thus avoiding future problems with body image. Early and appropriate intervention will help to prevent or reduce the severity of the flat head.
The helmet is an effective treatment if begun at the earliest at the age of 3 months and before the age of one year at the latest, because at these ages the bones of the skull begin to harden and unite. The helmet prevents the skull from growing in other directions and "forces" the brain to push the bone outwards where it has flattened. The helmet is worn for 23 hours a day throughout 4 months on average. The treatment does not require surgical intervention, only follow-up of changes in the exterior appearance of the head. Helmet therapy has been approved by the FDA and the Ministry of Health.
A less common condition is craniosynostosis, a premature joining of the sutures in the baby's skull. 1:3000 newborns have this rare condition, requiring surgical intervention at a very early age in order to reduce intracranial pressure, respiratory disorders, neurocognitive impairments and the risk of damage to the brain's development in addition to the obvious aesthetic deformity.
The classic method of treatment is open surgery when the infant is 8 to12-month-old on average. The innovative surgical approach employed at Schneider Children's, enables the correction of craniosynostosis through minimal invasive surgery (MIS) by initially removing the closed suture (suturectomy) and then realigning the skull through the individually-adapted helmet. MIS is conducted between the age of 2 to 6 months. In comparison with the open surgical approach, MIS is significantly shorter (an hour compared to 4-5 hours), leaves a much smaller scar (compared with the broad ear to ear scarring), is much less dangerous, and requires a shorter hospital stay. Post-surgery, the infant is fitted with the helmet which is worn for the next 6 months on average.
The unique treatment in infants vastly improves skull distortion and asymmetry, and is provided by two specialists who served for a number of years as senior physicians in children's hospitals in the United States, and who have brought their expertise to Schneider Children's: Dr. Amir Kershenovich, Director of the Neurosurgery Unit and Dr. Asaf Ulshinka, senior plastic surgeon and specialist in in craniocephaly surgery in the Plastic Surgery Unit. The Helmet Clinic recently welcomed Yishai Shakarchy, who holds a BSc from St. Petersburg College in Florida, USA, and holds a qualification as an orthoptist obtained from the American Council of Orthotics.
The Helmet Clinic is the only one of its kind in the country, and treatment is provided to infants who are individually fitted with helmets. Helmets have been in use for some years at leading pediatric centers in the world.
The treatment for craniosynostosis falls within the health basket of services and is thus free of charge. The treatment for positional plagiocephaly, however, is not within the health basket and a fee is charged.
Contact: 972-3-9253668, [email protected]
Parent of infants with asymmetrical heads are invited to join the group on Facebook "Heros with Helmets – Parents of children with craniosynostosis or plagiocephaly may consult with us and obtain further information at https://bit.ly/eK6kWQv