What is a Cranial Helmet?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett

A cranial helmet is a device used to reshape the heads of infants with particular kinds of deformities. A cranial helmet can typically treat both plagiocephaly and brachiocephaly, conditions in which part of the head is flattened, with some degree of success. The goal of this type of device is to guide the growth of the head back into a symmetrical shape without putting pressure on the head. It is often worn for several months before the infant reaches the age at which the growth of the head slows, making reshaping more difficult.

In most cases, an infant will require a cranial helmet that has been specifically fitted to his or her head. This is usually accomplished by scanning the baby's head and making a model from the scan, but there are other methods of modeling the head. There are a variety of helmet designs that may cover the entire head or leave part of the head open to air. A doctor will usually select the most appropriate design.

A baby will usually wear the cranial helmet for the majority of the day and night after a brief period of introduction. Some babies find the helmet uncomfortable or dislike wearing it, but most grow accustomed to it after a while. A doctor will usually give instructions concerning when it is appropriate to remove the helmet, such as during bathing. As the device is attached with a strap and is not providing the baby with life support, removing the helmet in an emergency should not be a problem.

During the time the infant wears the cranial helmet, it must be adjusted to accommodate growth. This is usually accomplished by removing small pieces of the lining in a regular fashion. Visits to an appropriate medical professional must usually be made every two weeks or as necessary. Any redness or swelling related to the helmet must be resolved immediately, as the helmet may be too tight or may be causing an allergic reaction.

Many parents feel more comfortable seeing a child in a colorful, friendly looking helmet than a plain helmet with a clinical appearance. Simply having the child wear a helmet in a child-appropriate design can help reduce fear in people encountering the child and may help reduce anxiety in parents. Even minor medical problems in children can cause serious familial stress, and minimizing the unnatural intrusion of a helmet in family life can help integrate the child into the family more peacefully.

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