CONTACT: DEBRA VENZKE
UI COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH
Release: Jan. 7, 2002
NOTE TO EDITORS: Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics,
contributed to this news release.
UI researcher participates in study on positional plagiocephaly
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Research conducted by an investigator in the University
of Iowa College of Public Health found that a twin infant who is in the lower
part of the uterus during development is more likely to develop positional
plagiocephaly -- a condition where the soft bones in a baby's skull become
flattened or misshapen due to continual external pressure.
The study results are reported in the January 2002 issue of Pediatrics,
the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Although an increase in plagiocephaly has been tied to the American Academy
of Pediatrics' 1992 recommendation to place infants to sleep on their back
to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, a confined space while
in utero also plays a significant role, the researchers found. The study,
which examined detailed medical histories of 140 sets of twins identified
from nine U.S. treatment centers, also found the lower-placed infant at higher
risk for neck dysfunction.
"This study emphasizes the importance of in utero conditions as well
as the interactions among in utero and postnatal events," said Kevin
M. Kelly, Ph.D., research scientist in the UI department of occupational and
environmental health and adjunct associate professor in the UI department
of community and behavioral health and the UI department of anthropology.
"While it is easy to understand how crowded in utero positioning might
lead to neck dysfunction and consequently to plagiocephaly, it is important
to recognize the role of postnatal infant positioning. Prolonged time in car
seats and infant carriers and extended time lying on the back could exacerbate
When diagnosed during the first several months of life, simple activities
such as repositioning the baby's head, adult-supervised "tummy time"
and physical therapy can have a significant impact in improving and correcting
plagiocephaly. In rare cases where a severe, persistent deformity persists,
reconstructive surgery may be required.
This study is the most recent in a series of collaborative research studies
addressing the etiology, prevention and treatment of positional plagiocephaly.
Other investigators included Timothy R. Littlefield and Jeanne K. Pomatto,
both of Cranial Technologies, Inc. in Phoenix, Ariz., and Stephen P. Beals,
M.D., of the Southwest Craniofacial Center in Phoenix, Ariz.