A 3D Digital Design Database of US infant head shapes-from birth to first birthday

by Roger Ball

Coauthors: Steven Goudy MD - Emory Health Care System Greg Gibson - Department of Biological Sciences - Georgia Tech

Data Sharing


The goal of this project is to create a 3D Digital Design Database of US infant head and face shapes for use in cranial surgery, pediatric growth charts, product Design, Design engineering and Human Factors research. This project will scan infants during their first year of life, from birth to first birthday, when the head grows 50%. The first year after birth is a critical time for surgical interventions to correct craniosynostosis, a condition where the skull fontanels are fused and need to be surgically separated, or Plagiocephaly, flat head syndrome, through non-invasive treatments like prescribing a series of head orthosis to gently mold the skull back to a more rounded shape.

These two conditions represent the same problem what is the correct head shape for an infant? In both craniosynthosois and palgiocephaly doctors seek to change the shape of the head, one through surgery and one through gentle shaping. Currently doctors and surgeons rely on head growth measurements of circumference. While valuable as a measure of overall head growth development a circumference measurement provides no information about head shape. When doctors are shaping the still flexible skull what is the exact shape they are trying to achieve? What data can they rely on to describe the accurate normal 3D shape of an infant? Does ancestry or gender influence normal head shape development in infants?
This is the challenge we will address by creating a 3D Digital Design database of US infant head shapes and then using the survey data create an anthropometrically correct, high resolution, 3D predictive model of infant head growth during the first year after birth. We will use up to date inclusive sampling that reflects the diversity of the US population.

The biggest barrier to this study are access to infants. Infants are perhaps the most difficult group to study from an anthropometric perspective because of their fragility and constant wriggling. Parents are naturally protective of granting access to their infants to all but the most trusted family members and their pediatricians. Taking head measurements by hand is time consuming and fraught with error due to infant wriggling.

The goal of the project is to create a 3D digital Design database of infant head and face shapes for use in cranial surgery, pediatric growth charts, product design, Design engineering and Human Factors evaluation. Surgeons, doctors and medical researchers will use the database to visualize head growth norms while Designers and engineers will use it to create better fitting infant products such as oxygen masks, head shaping orthotics and hearing aids