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May 02, 2014 04:23 PM EDT

Helmet Therapy For Flat Head Syndrome In Babies Has No Benefits

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Helmet therapy for babies with skull deformation is not effective, according to a recent study MedPage Today reported.

Researchers in the United Kingdom found that wearing a corrective helmet for flat head syndrome did not improve skull shape by two years of age, MedPage Today reported. They found no meaningful difference in their shape at the age of two years between children treated with therapy helmet and those who received no active treatment.

Helmet therapy is a controversial treatment for this condition. It is not available on the National Health Service, meaning some parents opt to pay privately, with bills running to over £2,000. But it is commonly used in some countries -- in the Netherlands, for example, 1 to 2 percent of all babies have helmet therapy, researchers said.

"It is worth highlighting that in neither group in this study did head shape 'normalize' by the end of the trial," Brett Collett, a craniofacial, behavioral, and mental health specialist at Seattle Children's Research Institute, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.

For the study, researchers conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial to test the use of helmet therapy in 84 infants who had a moderate or severe positional skull deformation -- either plagiocephaly, where one side of the head becomes flattened and the ears can become misaligned, or brachycephaly, where the back of the head is flattened and the front of the skull may bulge. Their average age was 6 6 months.

Researchers found that about one in four of the babies with helmets had improvements, which was roughly the same improvement seen in the control group,

The babies in the helmet group wore the helmets for 4 to 6 months and each of them experienced side-effects.  The results, coupled with a treatment costs estimated at $1,935 per child, led researchers to find no justification for the treatment.

The findings were recently published in BMJ.

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