After eight years working on a helmet to reshape babies” heads, physicians at the University had their design approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The original helmet was a single opening helmet with limited capacity for growth adjustment. Ammanath Peethambaran of the Orthotics & Prosthetics Center redesigned it after taking over the program in 1996.
“The current helmet is an ergonomic, low profile, bivalve design, light weight, self adjustable to accommodate the rapid growth of the skull. It is easy to apply and a cost-effective mechanical treatment for positional head deformity,” he said.
More babies are developing flat spots on their heads now than in the past because more are put to sleep on their backs in order to help prevent crib death.
Children with flattened heads may need surgery later if the condition is not corrected early enough. Positional head deformities can also lead to face and jaw problems later in life if left uncorrected. As opposed to surgery the helmet is “easy to apply and a cost effective mechanical treatment for positional head deformity,” said Peethambaran.
The O&P Center sees about 300 babies a year and the number is increasing. At a cost of about $1,500 per helmet and some patients require more than one and a therapy duration of three to six months, Peethambaran says that parents “must know that their involvement and dedication is extremely important for a successful outcome.”
In order to have their baby fitted for a helmet, parents must consult first with a physician because the helmets can only be obtained with a prescription. Parents are also advised to check with their insurance provider for coverage of
cost, Peethambaran explained.
For the duration of the reshaping therapy, the baby wears the helmet for 23 hours a day. This allows the head bones to grow correctly. Of the patients fitted with helmets thus far, about 80 percent have completed the therapy.
Alexandra Case is one of the most recent patients to be fitted with a helmet. “She”s doing really well with it, and it really doesn”t seem to bother her at all,” her mother, Cheryl Case, said in a written statement.
Natalie Cooper”s mother Susan had positive things to say about her daughter”s helmet and the team of doctors responsible for Natalie”s treatment program.
“The team has been very helpful and very gentle with Natalie. I like the helmet a lot it”s very adorable. And it actually helps her because when she falls down she doesn”t feel it!” Susan Cooper said in a written statement.