Torticollis (Wry Neck)

Literature from MedlinePlus tells us that torticollis, or wry neck, occurs when a baby’s neck muscle is shortened, leading to a twisted neck and a head that is tilted to one side.

What Causes Torticollis?

Congenital torticollis follows a difficult birth in which the muscle connecting the neck to the jawbone and clavicle gets stretched or pulled. This may cause the muscle to tear.
Upon tearing, the sternocleidomastoid muscle starts bleeding and becomes bruised, leading to the formation of scar tissue. Fibrosis, or scar tissue, shortens and tightens the muscle, which will cause the head of the baby to tilt to one side. Sometimes, a lump will form on one side of the newborn’s neck.

How is Torticollis Treated?

Generally, doctors are able to diagnose torticollis with a physical examination. However, diagnostic procedures, such as X-rays and ultrasounds, may be necessary.
A baby with torticollis tilts his head towards one direction and prefers to look at the mother over one shoulder. He or she will have trouble breastfeeding on both breasts and will appear frustrated and fussy when unable to turn around. Many babies with torticollis have a flat head as they sleep in one same position. Also, their faces will look deformed due to the lack of proper muscle movement.
In total, there are seven major symptoms that indicate congenital torticollis:
  1. Inclined head
  2. Rotation of back of the head
  3. Bone growing on the clavicle
  4. Single downward slanting eyebrow on the side of the affected muscle
  5. A broad face
  6. A face that is vertically short
  7. Deformed cranial vault
Doctors determine the best method of treatment according to the baby’s age, the severity of the condition, medicine tolerance, and personal preferences.
Treating a baby with Torticollis starts at-home neck stretching exercises. The goal is to loosen the tight muscle and stretch the opposite muscle. Moreover, physical therapy may be required.
In mild cases, the baby’s condition could get better within six months of therapy and home care. However, some recovieries may take up to a year. Unfortunately, many babies will end up requiring muscle-release surgery. As with most conditions, the key to successful recovery is a timely diagnosis, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
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What Are the Long-Term Effects of Torticollis?

Failure to identify torticollis at its earliest stage can lead to numerous developmental problems throughout the child’s life. These include conditions such as scoliosis and plagiocephaly. The latter can progress and result in a more pronounced injury showing a visible deformity.
Babies with muscular torticollis are at a greater risk of developing neurodevelopmental conditions later on in life.

Is Torticollis Caused by Medical Malpractice?

During childbirth, many circumstances can arise that cause torticollis. To prevent these from showing up, the doctor first needs to make sure that vaginal delivery is the right choice for the mother and baby.
In the event that unforeseen complications occur during labor, doctors will sometimes resort to the use of tools and force. However, if said force is not properly applied, the child is at risk. Torticollis can also occur due to the misuse of a vacuum extractor or forceps.
Finally, the doctor may fail to correct the position of the baby inside the womb. The baby’s position has a significant impact on whether torticollis develops.

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