One of the most important advances in endoscopic craniosynostosis repair occurred right here at our hospital: the St. Louis Protocol for helmeting. Our protocol is used around the U.S.
How Does Helmeting Work?
Post-surgical helmeting is a critical part of endoscopic craniosynostosis repair. Your baby’s custom-fitted helmet protects his or her head and also re-shapes it. You will need to be vigilant about helmeting in order to avoid re-operation.
- Before surgery: About a week prior to your child’s surgery, you will visit a cranial orthotist who will make a custom helmet for your child. The finished helmet is frequently available for fitting the day after surgery, while your child is still in the hospital.
- Immediately after surgery: Your baby must wear the helmet almost all of the time (roughly 23 hours a day). You will receive written instructions on when the helmet may be removed.
- Follow up care: You will need to revisit the orthotist. How often depends on your child’s age. At first it may be every other week, but as your child’s growth slows down it may be once a month. As your baby’s head grows, the helmet will be adjusted to keep pace.
Helmeting Frequently Asked Questions
- How long will my baby need to wear a helmet? Your baby will wear the helmet until about the time of their first birthday.
- What if I live out of town? If you live outside the St. Louis metro area, don’t worry. We work with expert cranial orthotists throughout the U.S. who use the St. Louis Protocol. This ensures that every child receives the same standard of care, no matter where you live.
- Will my baby wear a helmet after open craniosynostosis surgery? Only children who undergo endoscopic craniosynostosis repair need to wear a helmet.
Can My Baby Wear a Helmet Instead of Undergoing Surgery?
When the bones of the skull have fused together prematurely, the only way to separate them is through surgery. Wearing a helmet will not affect bones that have already fused.
In deformational plagiocephaly, which is a misshapen head caused by leaving a baby on its back too long, helmeting is an effective therapy. With deformational plagiocephaly, the sutures between the bones remain open. That is why the head can be re-shaped using only a helmet.