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Heads Up – Helmet Therapy Success at Shriners Children's Chicago

Benjamin was just 3 months old when his parents noticed he was favoring one side of his head, turning it to one side more than the other. His family tried repositioning his head from side to side but did not notice much improvement.

The infant developed a flat spot on his head. Eventually, his parents were encouraged to take him to Shriners Children’s Chicago for a craniofacial evaluation, and when he was 7 months old, baby Benjamin came for his first appointment. At an initial appointment, Shriners Children’s Chicago plastic surgery nurse practitioners provide an evaluation. The hospital’s orthotic and prosthetic team uses advanced equipment to document any head shape irregularities. The Chicago location has a STARscanner which uses laser technology to scan a baby’s head in less than two seconds, much faster than the traditional plaster cast method.

During the initial appointment, our teams at Shriners Children’s Chicago collaborated. Ideally, we would like to know that their parents and/or physical therapist have made an effort at repositioning, including tummy time and gentle neck stretches, if appropriate, before initiating helmet therapy.
Bill Craggs, CPO, Manager of Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services

“Benjamin’s head was found to be flat and mild to moderately asymmetric, and at 8 months old, he was placed in a helmet. We create the helmet from a 3-D scan from our STARscanner," said Craggs.

Helmet Concerns

Sometimes parents or grandparents may be adverse to the helmet at first. “We always reassure parents that this should not have any bearing on baby's intelligence or learning or development. So that's one big concern that many parents will express,” said Marisa Foss, CPNP, MSN, pediatric nurse practitioner. “Another is: Will the helmet hurt?”

“With these helmets, we're trying to capture the power of the baby's natural growth. We're not pushing on the head to push the skull into a better position,” said India Jacobson, CPO. “We're just holding that outward part, there are voids inside the helmet. When the skull grows, it fills in those voids and gets to be the better shape.”

"We certainly reassure parents that if (the helmet) is fitting properly, it shouldn't (hurt). One of the many reasons we bring them back for such regular visits is so that the helmet can be adjusted as necessary,” said Foss.

A Good Result

"Benjamin wore the helmet as prescribed, which was 23 hours per day, every day. In his case, he had favorable results after less than four months of treatment. Helmet therapy treatment typically ranges from four to eight months," Foss said. The Shriners Children’s Chicago team sees an average of 12 patients a month in the growing program. After the therapy, Benjamin’s head had rounded out well and showed improvement in symmetry. “It had improved to the point where I would consider Benjamin to be normocephalic, meaning in normal condition,” said Foss.

In addition to helmet therapy, Benjamin’s parents worked with him all along on tummy time while he was awake. “This is important because it helps strengthen the muscles of his neck and upper back, which also pull on the back of his head and help with the whole process. Throughout therapy, we still recommend that babies are placed on their back to sleep, as this is safest for airway and breathing,” said Foss.

Make an appointment or learn more about helmet therapy evaluations at Shriners Children’s Chicago.

Benjamin smiling

Benjamin during a clinic checkup

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