Updated: 6/24/2021

Congenital Muscular Torticollis

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  • SUMMARY
    • Congenital Muscular Torticollis is a musculoskeletal deformity caused by the abnormal contraction of the sternocleidomastoid muscle.
    • The condition typically presents in infants and children with a persistent head tilt toward the involved side.
    • Diagnosis is made clinically with the presence of a palpable neck mass from a contracted sternocleidomastoid muscle with the chin rotated towards the contralateral side.
    • Treatment is typically passive stretching with the condition resolving within a year. Surgical lengthening of the SCM muscle is indicated with failed response to at least 1 year of stretching.
  • Epidemiology
    • Incidence
      • most common cause of infantile torticollis
      • 0.3 - 2.0%
    • Demographics
      • 3:2 male to female ratio
    • Anatomic location
      • neck
    • Risk factors
      • oligohydramnios
      • first pregnancy (limited intrauterine space)
      • traumatic delivery
      • breech delivery
  • Etiology
    • Pathophysiology
      • contracture of the sternocleidomastoid (SCM)
        • cervical rotational deformity with chin rotation away from the affected side and head tilt towards the affected side
      • suspected muscle injury from compression and stretching of SCM
      • venous outflow obstruction
        • compression leading to decreased blood supply and subsequent compartment syndrome
    • Associated conditions
      • associated with other packaging disorders
        • developmental dysplasia of the hip (5 - 15% association)
        • metatarsus adductus
        • calcaneovalgus feet
      • plagiocephaly (asymmetric flattening of the skull)
        • occurs on contralateral side
      • congenital atlanto-occipital abnormalities
  • ANATOMY
    • Muscles
      • sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM)
        • origins
          • sternal head - anterior surface of manubrium sterni
          • clavicular head - superior surface of medial third of clavicle
        • insertions
          • lateral mastoid process on temporal bone
          • lateral occipital bone
        • innervation
          • cranial nerve XI - spinal accessory nerve
            • at risk when operatively releasing SCM
        • function
          • ipsilateral neck flexion, contralateral head rotation
  • PRESENTATION
    • Symptoms
      • head tilt and rotation
      • painless passive motion
    • Physical exam
      • inspection
        • palpable neck mass from contracted SCM
          • usually noted within the first four weeks of life or during newborn exam
        • head tilt & rotation
          • neck tilt towards the affected SCM
          • chin rotation away from the affected SCM
        • conduct routine baby exam
          • assess visual function, auditory assessment, and neurologic exam
          • examine for hip dysplasia, foot deformities, as well as spine abnormalities
      • motion
        • in older children - restriction of rotation and lateral flexion of neck
          • mass becomes a tight band
  • IMAGING
    • Radiographs
      • recommended views
        • AP and lateral cervical spine
      • indications
        • head tilt and rotation with no palpable mass present
        • rule out other bony conditions that can cause torticollis
    • CT
      • recommended views
        • dynamic CT scan
        • scan at C1-C2 level with head straight, then in maximum rotation to left and right
      • indications
        • rule out atlantoaxial rotatory subluxation
    • MRI
      • recommended views
        • MRI brain and cervical spine
      • indications
        • rule out non-muscular and central causes of torticollis
    • Ultrasound
      • indications
        • head tilt and rotation with decreased ROM in the presence of a palpable mass
      • findings
        • larger and hyperechoic (due to fibrosis) SCM on involved side when compared to contralateral side
        • differentiate congenital muscular torticollis from more serious underlying neurologic or osseous abnormalities
  • DIFFERENTIAL
    • Atlantoaxial rotatory subluxation
      • painful (compared to painless for congenital muscular torticollis)
      • post-traumatic or post-infectious (Grisel's disease)
    • Klippel-Feil syndrome
      • classic triad:
        • short webbed neck
        • low posterior hairline
        • limited cervical range of motion
    • Ophthalmologic and vestibular conditions
    • Lesions of central and peripheral nervous system
  • TREATMENT
    • Nonoperative
      • passive stretching
        • indications
          • condition present for less than 1 year
          • less than 30° limitation in ROM
        • outcomes
          • 90-95% respond to passive stretching in the first year of life
    • Operative
      • bipolar release of SCM or Z-lengthening
        • indications
          • failed response to at least 1 year of stretching
        • outcomes
          • good outcomes (92% success), even in older children
          • facial asymmetry can improve as long as release done prior to 10 years of age
  • TECHNIQUES
    • Passive stretching
      • technique
        • opposite of the deformity
          • lateral head tilt away from affected side
          • chin rotation toward the affected side
    • Bipolar release of SCM or Z-lengthening
      • technique
        • short, proximal incision behind the ear to divide SCM
        • single or dual incision to reach sternal and clavicular attachments of SCM
      • complications
        • SCM branch of CN XI (spinal accessory nerve) is at risk
  • COMPLICATIONS
    • Permanent rotational deformity
      • risk factors
        • left untreated or unnoticed
    • Positional plagiocephaly
      • risk factors
        • left untreated or unnoticed
    • Craniofacial deformities
      • facial asymmetry
      • facial hemihypoplasia
    • Compensatory scoliosis
  • Prognosis
    • Typically resolves with stretching within the first year
    • If left untreated
      • permanent rotational deformity
      • positional plagiocephaly
      • craniofacial deformities
        • facial asymmetry
        • facial hemihypoplasia
      • compensatory scoliosis

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Flashcards (4)
Cards
1 of 4
Questions (2)

(OBQ10.218) A 6-week-old female infant presents with the neck deformity and palpable mass shown in Figure A. She has had persistent lateral tilting of her head to the right since birth, and rotation of the neck is restricted. In this age group, what is the most common cause of this rotational abnormality?

QID: 3317
FIGURES:
1

Congenital muscular torticollis

88%

(3415/3871)

2

Klippel-Feil syndrome

0%

(13/3871)

3

Arnold-Chiari malformation

0%

(7/3871)

4

Atlantoaxial rotatory displacement

1%

(45/3871)

5

Paroxysmal torticollis of infancy

10%

(371/3871)

L 1 C

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

(OBQ09.2) Tightness in which of the following muscles has been implicated as an etiology for congenital muscular torticollis?

QID: 2815
1

platysma

0%

(18/3678)

2

omohyoid

0%

(16/3678)

3

longus colli

1%

(27/3678)

4

sternocleidomastoid

97%

(3583/3678)

5

trapezius

1%

(19/3678)

L 2 C

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

Evidence (7)
VIDEOS & PODCASTS (1)
EXPERT COMMENTS (8)
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