Clinical Course of Asymmetric Motor Performance and Deformational Plagiocephaly in Very Preterm Infants

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To describe the clinical courses of positional preference and deformational plagiocephaly up to 6 months corrected age (CA) in infants born at gestational age <30 weeks or birth weight <1000 g, and to explore predictive factors for the persistence of these phenomena.

Study design

A total of 120 infants were examined 3 times each. The presence of deformational plagiocephaly and a score of 0-6 on an asymmetry performance scale served as outcome measures at 6 months CA. Predictive factors were determined using regression analysis.


The prevalence of a positional preference of the head was 65.8% (79 of 120) at term-equivalent age (TEA) and 36.7% (44 of 120) at 3 months CA and that of deformational plagiocephaly was 30% (36 of 120) at TEA and 50% (60 of 120) at 3 months CA. At 6 months CA, 15.8% of the infants (19 of 120) scored ≥2 of a possible 6 on the asymmetry performance scale and 23.3% (28 of 120) had deformational plagiocephaly. Sleeping in the supine position was predictive of an asymmetric motor performance at 6 months CA. Chronic lung disease and/or slow gross motor maturation at 3 months CA predicted the persistence of deformational plagiocephaly.


Infants born very preterm may develop deformational plagiocephaly. A positional preference of the head at TEA seems to be a normal aspect of these infants' motor repertoire, with limited ability to predict persistence of an asymmetric motor performance. The decreased prevalence of deformational plagiocephaly between 3 and 6 months CA indicates an optimistic course. Infants with a history of chronic lung disease and/or slow gross motor maturation merit timely intervention.

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