Uncertain clinical evidence for treating positional plagiocephaly, especially with helmet therapy, creates difficulties in counseling parents of patients. This study investigates layperson perceptions and treatment preferences for positional plagiocephaly to provide patient-oriented evidence for management.
Adult laypersons were recruited through crowdsourcing to view digitally-modified images of normal, mildly, moderately, or severely plagiocephalic infant heads. Participants provided demographic information and rated the infant's head shape and potential related social difficulties, likelihood of consulting a physician for treatment options, and likelihood of seeking helmeting treatment for the infant.
Nine hundred forty-five individuals participated in the study. Perception of head shape, prediction of future embarrassment and social difficulties, likelihood of seeking physician evaluation, likelihood of choosing helmet therapy, and willingness-to-pay for helmet therapy were pairwise-different between 4 plagiocephaly severities (corrected-P < 0.001 for all), except between normocephaly (n = 194) and mild (n = 334) plagiocephaly or between moderate (n = 203) and severe (n = 214) plagiocephaly. Younger respondents were more likely to consult a physician (uncorrected-P = 0.016) and choose helmet therapy (uncorrected-P = 0.004) for infants with normocephaly or mild plagiocephaly. Parents of children with physical disabilities were 6 times as likely as other participants to choose helmet therapy for mild plagiocephaly (corrected-P = 0.036).
Laypersons perceived moderate and severe plagiocephaly as equally abnormal and mild plagiocephaly as normal, consistent with their treatment preferences. Parents of physically disabled children were significantly more likely than other participants to choose helmet therapy. Our findings provide medical professionals with lay perspectives on positional plagiocephaly that may facilitate effective counseling of parents.