Skip to main content

The AHRQ National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC, guideline.gov) Web site will not be available after July 16, 2018 because federal funding
through AHRQ will no longer be available to support the NGC as of that date. For additional information, read our full announcement.
  • Guideline Summary
  • NGC:011097
  • 2016 Nov

Congress of Neurological Surgeons systematic review and evidence-based guideline for the management of patients with positional plagiocephaly: the role of physical therapy.

Baird LC, Klimo P Jr, Flannery AM, Bauer DF, Beier A, Durham S, Lin AY, McClung-Smith C, Mitchell L, Nikas D, Tamber MS, Tyagi R, Mazzola C. Congress of Neurological Surgeons systematic review and evidence-based guideline for the management of patients with positional plagiocephaly: the role of physical therapy. Neurosurgery. 2016 Nov;79(5):E630-1. [1 reference] PubMed External Web Site Policy

View the original guideline documentation External Web Site Policy

This is the current release of the guideline.

This guideline meets NGC's 2013 (revised) inclusion criteria.

Major Recommendations

Definitions for the levels of recommendations (I-III) are provided at the end of the "Major Recommendations" field.

Recommendations

  1. Physical therapy is recommended over repositioning education alone for reducing prevalence of infantile positional plagiocephaly in infants 7 weeks of age.

    Strength of recommendation: Level I (high clinical certainty)

  2. Physical therapy is as effective for the treatment of positional plagiocephaly and recommended over the use of a positioning pillow in order to ensure a safe sleeping environment and comply with American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations.

    Strength of recommendation: Level II (moderate clinical certainty)

Definitions

Classification of Evidence and Levels of Recommendation on Therapeutic Effectiveness

Class I Evidence
Level I (or A) Recommendation
Evidence from one or more well-designed, randomized controlled clinical trials, including overviews of such trials.
Class II Evidence
Level II (or B) Recommendation
Evidence from one or more well-designed comparative clinical studies, such as non-randomized cohort studies, case-control studies, and other comparable studies, including less well-designed randomized controlled trials.
Class III Evidence
Level III (or C) Recommendation
Evidence from case series, comparative studies with historical controls, case reports, and expert opinion, as well as significantly flawed randomized controlled trials.

Clinical Algorithm(s)

None provided

Disease/Condition(s)

Positional plagiocephaly

Guideline Category

Assessment of Therapeutic Effectiveness

Management

Treatment

Clinical Specialty

Neurology

Pediatrics

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Intended Users

Physical Therapists

Physicians

Guideline Objective(s)

To answer the question "Does physical therapy provide effective treatment for positional plagiocephaly?"

Target Population

Infants with positional plagiocephaly

Interventions and Practices Considered

  1. Physical therapy
  2. Repositioning education
  3. Positioning pillow (not recommended)

Major Outcomes Considered

Improvement in cranial asymmetry based on anthropometric measurements

Methods Used to Collect/Select the Evidence

Hand-searches of Published Literature (Primary Sources)

Hand-searches of Published Literature (Secondary Sources)

Searches of Electronic Databases

Description of Methods Used to Collect/Select the Evidence

General Search Strategy

Literature Search

The task force worked with medical librarians to determine appropriate search terms and to create search strategies for each guideline chapter. The National Library of Medicine and the Cochrane Library were searched for literature published between 1966 and October 2014. Task force members used the article inclusion/exclusion criteria described below to screen abstracts and provide a list of relevant articles for full-text review. Task force members were blinded to the selection of abstracts provided by other task force members. Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) staff compiled lists of manuscripts for full-text review and approval by all of the task force members, and these full-text articles were reviewed by all task force members. In addition, task force members also screened the bibliographies of relevant systematic reviews for potentially relevant articles.

Article Inclusion Criteria

Included articles must have met certain criteria, as detailed below. To reduce bias, these criteria were specified before conducting the literature searches. To be included in the review, an article had to meet the following criteria:

  • Studies had to investigate pediatric (<18 years of age) patients with non-synostotic plagiocephaly or brachycephaly.
  • Studies with mixed patient populations and that combined the results of these patient groups must have enrolled ≥80% of pediatric patients with plagiocephaly or brachycephaly.
  • The study was a full article report of a clinical study.
  • Studies had to have appeared in a peer-reviewed publication or a registry report.
  • Studies had to enroll at least 10 patients (5 per treatment arm) for each distinct outcome measured. If it was a comparative study, a minimum enrollment of 5 patients per treatment arm for each outcome was necessary.
  • The study involved humans.
  • The study was published in or after 1966.
  • The study presented results quantitatively.
  • The study did not involve "in vitro," "biomechanical," or results performed on cadavers.
  • The study was published in English.

Systematic reviews, meta-analyses, or guidelines developed by others were not considered as evidence to support this guideline. The task force screened the bibliographies of these publications to ensure the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the literature search results used for this guideline.

Specific Search Strategy for This Guideline

Literature Search

The task force collaborated with medical librarians to search PubMed and the Cochrane Library for the period from 1966 to October 2014 using the MeSH subject headings and PubMed search strategies provided in Appendix A of the full guideline (see "Availability of Companion Documents" field). Manual searches of bibliographies were also conducted.

Article Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

The task force reviewed the titles and abstracts to identify studies addressing the effectiveness of physical therapy compared to other treatment modalities or no treatment for positional plagiocephaly. Studies in which there was no comparison group (uncontrolled) were excluded. The authors reviewed articles that met these criteria, and appropriate studies were selected for inclusion into an evidentiary table.

Search Results

The search returned 47 unique articles. Thirty-four were excluded based on a review of the abstract. Thirteen full-text papers were reviewed. Ten articles were rejected for the following reasons: lack of a comparison group, potential significant degree of confounding introduced by co-intervention(s), lack of assessment of physical therapy as an independent outcome measure, and comparison to a commercially unavailable orthotic device (see Figure 1 in the full version of the guideline [see the "Availability of Companion Documents" field]).

Number of Source Documents

Three articles satisfied the inclusion criteria for inclusion into the evidentiary table. See Figure 1 in the full version of the guideline (see the "Availability of Companion Documents" field).

Methods Used to Assess the Quality and Strength of the Evidence

Weighting According to a Rating Scheme (Scheme Given)

Rating Scheme for the Strength of the Evidence

Classification of Evidence and Levels of Recommendation on Therapeutic Effectiveness

Class I Evidence
Level I (or A) Recommendation
Evidence from one or more well-designed, randomized controlled clinical trials, including overviews of such trials.
Class II Evidence
Level II (or B) Recommendation
Evidence from one or more well-designed comparative clinical studies, such as non-randomized cohort studies, case-control studies, and other comparable studies, including less well-designed randomized controlled trials.
Class III Evidence
Level III (or C) Recommendation
Evidence from case series, comparative studies with historical controls, case reports, and expert opinion, as well as significantly flawed randomized controlled trials.

Methods Used to Analyze the Evidence

Systematic Review with Evidence Tables

Description of the Methods Used to Analyze the Evidence

Evidentiary tables were constructed that summarized pertinent study results.

Rating Quality of Evidence

The quality of evidence was rated using an evidence hierarchy developed by the Joint Guidelines Committee for each of the 4 different study types (i.e., therapeutic, diagnostic, prognostic, and clinical assessment).

Methods Used to Formulate the Recommendations

Expert Consensus (Nominal Group Technique)

Description of Methods Used to Formulate the Recommendations

The development of these guidelines was initiated by the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) and the Section on Pediatric Neurosurgery in response to members' concerns about the variation in the diagnosis and treatment paradigms being utilized. A multidisciplinary team comprised of physician volunteers (clinical experts), a clinical guidelines expert, and medical librarians was convened to conduct a systematic search of the literature and prepare clinical guidelines on the topic of pediatric plagiocephaly. After initial discussions, the members of the Plagiocephaly Guideline Task Force (hereinafter referred to as "the task force") decided, a priori, that the 4 major sub-topics would include: imaging modalities in the diagnosis of plagiocephaly, repositioning, physical therapy, and molding orthoses (helmet therapy).

Strength of Recommendations Rating Scheme

The task force used the methodologies endorsed by the Joint Guidelines Committee (JGC) to assign a strength of recommendation for each recommendation included in this guideline. Linking evidence to recommendations, through the utilization of evidentiary tables, has been endorsed by the American Medical Association (AMA), the CNS, and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). This process validates and supports the relationship between the strength of evidence and the strength of recommendations.

Demonstrating the highest degree of clinical certainty, Class I evidence is used to support recommendations of the strongest type, defined as Level I recommendations. Level II recommendations reflect a moderate degree of clinical certainty and are supported by Class II evidence or strong consensus of Class III evidence. Level III recommendations denote clinical uncertainty supported by inconclusive or conflicting evidence or expert opinion.

Voting on the Recommendations

The task force used voting among its members to approve the final recommendations, language, and strength of recommendations. The voting was used to ensure that the language of each recommendation accurately reflected the evidence and the strength of the evidence. All the recommendations in this review were approved following the first round of voting, and no further discussion was needed to finalize the recommendations. The voting technique is referred to as the nominal group technique. During the course of editing and finalization of the document, changes were made to allow recommendations to conform to the rules of evidence and language as described above. When this occurred, the changes were reviewed and approved by the group.

Guideline Panel Consensus and Approval Process

Topic teams were created from the task force based on expertise of the task force members with respect to each topic addressed within the review. Each group took part in literature selection, review of the literature, creation of the evidence tables, creation of the guideline, editing, and final review. The final draft of the guideline was then circulated to the entire task force for feedback, discussion, and ultimately approval.

Rating Scheme for the Strength of the Recommendations

See the "Rating Scheme for the Strength of the Evidence" field.

Cost Analysis

A formal cost analysis was not performed and published cost analyses were not reviewed.

Method of Guideline Validation

Internal Peer Review

Description of Method of Guideline Validation

Following task force approval, drafts of the completed guidelines were presented to the Joint Guidelines Committee (JGC) for peer review and, ultimately, recommendation of endorsement by the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). The reviewers for the JGC were vetted by the editorial staff of the journal Neurosurgery. During the review process, the peer reviewers were blinded to the identities of the task force members. As part of the evaluation process, reviewers could provide input on the content and the methodologies used to create the systematic review.

Type of Evidence Supporting the Recommendations

The type of supporting evidence is identified and graded for each recommendation (see the "Major Recommendations" field). There were 2 randomized controlled trials (Class I and Class II) and 1 small, prospective, randomized study assessing, but not statistically analyzing, plagiocephaly as a secondary outcome measure in both groups (Class III).

Potential Benefits

The systemic review demonstrates physical therapy to be an effective treatment option for positional plagiocephaly. Class II evidence suggests physical therapy to be a superior treatment modality to repositioning in cases of severe plagiocephaly, and an equivalent treatment modality to a positioning pillow. Class III evidence suggests that physical therapy performed by a professional physical therapist can lead to more results over a shorter treatment time, and thus be more appropriate in the setting of severe plagiocephaly.

Potential Harms

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against the use of soft positioning pillows in the crib of an infant to ensure a safe sleeping environment; therefore, the plagiocephaly guidelines committee recommends using physical therapy over positioning devices.

Qualifying Statements

Disclaimer of Liability

This clinical systematic review and evidence-based guideline was developed by a physician volunteer task force as an educational tool that reflects the current state of knowledge at the time of completion. The presentations are designed to provide an accurate review of the subject matter covered. This guideline is disseminated with the understanding that the recommendations by the authors and consultants who have collaborated in its development are not meant to replace the individualized care and treatment advice from a patient's physician(s). If medical advice or assistance is required, the services of a physician should be sought. The recommendations contained in this guideline may not be suitable for use in all circumstances. The choice to implement any particular recommendation contained in this guideline must be made by a managing physician in light of the situation in each particular patient and on the basis of existing resources.

Description of Implementation Strategy

An implementation strategy was not provided.

Implementation Tools

Mobile Device Resources

Quick Reference Guides/Physician Guides

For information about availability, see the Availability of Companion Documents and Patient Resources fields below.

IOM Care Need

Getting Better

IOM Domain

Effectiveness

Patient-centeredness

Bibliographic Source(s)

Baird LC, Klimo P Jr, Flannery AM, Bauer DF, Beier A, Durham S, Lin AY, McClung-Smith C, Mitchell L, Nikas D, Tamber MS, Tyagi R, Mazzola C. Congress of Neurological Surgeons systematic review and evidence-based guideline for the management of patients with positional plagiocephaly: the role of physical therapy. Neurosurgery. 2016 Nov;79(5):E630-1. [1 reference] PubMed External Web Site Policy

Adaptation

Not applicable: The guideline was not adapted from another source.

Date Released

2016 Nov

Guideline Developer(s)

Congress of Neurological Surgeons - Professional Association

Source(s) of Funding

These evidence-based clinical practice guidelines were funded exclusively by the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the Section on Pediatric Neurosurgery of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, which received no funding from outside commercial sources to support the development of this document.

Development of this systematic review and set of guidelines was editorially independent of the funding agencies.

Guideline Committee

Plagiocephaly Guideline Task Force

Composition of Group That Authored the Guideline

Task Force Members: Lissa C. Baird, MD, Department of Neurological Surgery, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon; Paul Klimo Jr, MD, Semmes-Murphey Neurologic & Spine Institute, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee; Ann Marie Flannery, MD, Kids Specialty Center, Women's & Children's Hospital, Lafayette, Louisiana; David F. Bauer, MD, Dartmouth–Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire; Alexandra Beier, DO, Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, University of Florida Health Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Florida; Susan Durham, MD, Division of Neurosurgery, University of Vermont Medical Center, Burlington, Vermont; Alexander Y. Lin, MD, St. Louis Cleft-Craniofacial Center, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital at Saint Louis University, Division of Plastic Surgery, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri; Catherine McClung-Smith, MD, Department of Neurosurgery, Palmetto Health University of South Carolina Medical Group, Columbia, South Carolina; Laura Mitchell, MA, Guidelines Department, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, Schaumburg, Illinois; Dimitrios Nikas, MD, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, Advocate Children's Hospital, Oak Lawn, Illinois; Mandeep S. Tamber, MD, PhD, Department of Pediatric Neurological Surgery, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Rachana Tyagi, MD, Department of Surgery, Division of Neurosurgery, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey; Catherine Mazzola, MD, Goryeb Children's Hospital of Atlantic Health Systems, Morristown, New Jersey

Financial Disclosures/Conflicts of Interest

Potential Conflicts of Interest

All guideline task force members were required to disclose all potential conflicts of interest (COIs) prior to beginning work on the guideline, using the COI disclosure form of the Joint Guidelines Committee of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) (hereinafter referred to as the Joint Guidelines Committee). The CNS Guidelines Committee and the task force chair reviewed any disclosures and either approved or disapproved the nomination and participation on the task force. The CNS Guidelines Committee and the task force chair may approve nominations of task force members with possible conflicts and restrict the writing, reviewing, and/or voting privileges of that person to topics that are unrelated to the possible COIs.

The authors have no personal, financial, or institutional interest in any of the drugs, materials, or devices described in this article.

Guideline Endorser(s)

American Academy of Pediatrics - Medical Specialty Society

American Association of Neurological Surgeons - Medical Specialty Society

Guideline Status

This is the current release of the guideline.

This guideline meets NGC's 2013 (revised) inclusion criteria.

Guideline Availability

Available from the Neurosurgery Web site External Web Site Policy. Also available as ePub from the Neurosurgery Web site External Web Site Policy.

Availability of Companion Documents

The following are available:

  • Congress of Neurological Surgeons systematic review and evidence-based guideline for the management of patients with positional plagiocephaly: the role of physical therapy. Full guideline. 2016 Nov. 17 p. Available from the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • Flannery AM, Mitchell L, Mazzola C, Klimo P Jr., Baird LC, Tamber MS, Bauer DF, Beier A, Durham S, Lin AY, McClung-Smith C, Nikas D, Tyagi R. Congress of Neurological Surgeons systematic review and evidence-based guideline for the management of patients with positional plagiocephaly: introduction and methods. 2016 Nov. 12 p. Available from the CNS Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • Flannery AM, Tamber MS, Mazzola C, Klimo P Jr, Baird LC, Tyagi R, Bauer DF, Beier A, Durham S, Lin AY, McClung-Smith C, Mitchell L, Nikas, D. Congress of Neurological Surgeons systematic review and evidence-based guidelines for the management of patients with positional plagiocephaly: executive summary. Neurosurgery. 2016 Nov;79(5):623-4. Available from the Neurosurgery Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS). Guideline development methodology: endorsed by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), and the AANS/CNS Joint Guideline Committee. Schaumburg (IL): Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS); 2012 Feb. 12 p. Available from the CNS Web site External Web Site Policy.

Patient Resources

None available

NGC Status

This NGC summary was completed by ECRI Institute on February 3, 2017. the information was verified by the guideline developer on February 23, 2017.

Copyright Statement

This NGC summary is based on the original guideline, which is subject to the guideline developer's copyright restrictions.

NGC Disclaimer

The National Guideline Clearinghouse™ (NGC) does not develop, produce, approve, or endorse the guidelines represented on this site.

All guidelines summarized by NGC and hosted on our site are produced under the auspices of medical specialty societies, relevant professional associations, public or private organizations, other government agencies, health care organizations or plans, and similar entities.

Guidelines represented on the NGC Web site are submitted by guideline developers, and are screened solely to determine that they meet the NGC Inclusion Criteria.

NGC, AHRQ, and its contractor ECRI Institute make no warranties concerning the content or clinical efficacy or effectiveness of the clinical practice guidelines and related materials represented on this site. Moreover, the views and opinions of developers or authors of guidelines represented on this site do not necessarily state or reflect those of NGC, AHRQ, or its contractor ECRI Institute, and inclusion or hosting of guidelines in NGC may not be used for advertising or commercial endorsement purposes.

Readers with questions regarding guideline content are directed to contact the guideline developer.