Open Access Study protocol

HElmet therapy Assessment in infants with Deformed Skulls (HEADS): protocol for a randomised controlled trial

Renske M van Wijk1*, Magda M Boere-Boonekamp1, Catharina GM Groothuis-Oudshoorn1, Leo A van Vlimmeren23 and Maarten J IJzerman1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Technology and Services Research, Institute for Governance Studies, University of Twente, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE, Enschede, The Netherlands

2 Department of Rehabilitation, Pediatric Physical Therapy, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, P.O. Box 9101, 6500 HB, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

3 Scientific Institute for Quality of Health Care, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, P.O. Box 9101, 6500 HB, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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Trials 2012, 13:108  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-13-108

Published: 9 July 2012

Abstract

Background

In The Netherlands, helmet therapy is a commonly used treatment in infants with skull deformation (deformational plagiocephaly or deformational brachycephaly). However, evidence of the effectiveness of this treatment remains lacking. The HEADS study (HElmet therapy Assessment in Deformed Skulls) aims to determine the effects and costs of helmet therapy compared to no helmet therapy in infants with moderate to severe skull deformation.

Methods/design

Pragmatic randomised controlled trial (RCT) nested in a cohort study. The cohort study included infants with a positional preference and/or skull deformation at two to four months (first assessment). At 5 months of age, all children were assessed again and infants meeting the criteria for helmet therapy were asked to participate in the RCT. Participants were randomly allocated to either helmet therapy or no helmet therapy. Parents of eligible infants that do not agree with enrolment in the RCT were invited to stay enrolled for follow up in a non-randomisedrandomised controlled trial (nRCT); they were then free to make the decision to start helmet therapy or not. Follow-up assessments took place at 8, 12 and 24 months of age. The main outcome will be head shape at 24 months that is measured using plagiocephalometry. Secondary outcomes will be satisfaction of parents and professionals with the appearance of the child, parental concerns about the future, anxiety level and satisfaction with the treatment, motor development and quality of life of the infant. Finally, compliance and costs will also be determined.

Discussion

HEADS will be the first study presenting data from an RCT on the effectiveness of helmet therapy. Outcomes will be important for affected children and their parents, health care professionals and future treatment policies. Our findings are likely to influence the reimbursement policies of health insurance companies.

Besides these health outcomes, we will be able to address several methodological questions, e.g. do participants in an RCT represent the eligible target population and do outcomes of the RCT differ from outcomes found in the nRCT?

Trial registration

ISRCTN18473161.