Francis G. Wolfort, Mitchel A. Kanter, Leonard B. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Torticollis can be an isolated deformity or a sign of other neuromuscular disease. Underlying central nervous system or infectious disorders need to be considered and treated. In most patients, an improvement in the aesthetic disability is the primary objective. In general, an operation is indicated for the classical “congenital” muscular torticollis that does not respond to physiotherapy and forceful stretching of the restricting neck band. The mass or “tumor” of “congenital” torticollis requires no specific treatment. Operation may be delayed until age 1, but should probably be completed prior to school age. Reversal of craniofacial asymmetry is best achieved at an early age when there is maximum growth potential. Principles of surgery are (1) identification and release of all restricting bands involving the sternocleidomastoid muscle and other neck structures, (2) moving of the head and neck through a full range of motion prior to the completion of the procedure, and (3) resumption of physical therapy within 2 weeks of operation to prevent recurrent scar contracture. Various operations have been recommended, the most popular and reliable being inferior open tenotomy of the sternal and clavicular heads of the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Incisions should be placed low in the neck along skin lines and not over the clavicle in order to avoid hypertrophic scarring. Other procedures discussed are superior open sternocleidomastoid tenotomy (mastoid release), muscle lengthening procedures, and sternocleidomastoid excision. Only modest results should be anticipated in older children or adults with longstanding disease or advanced craniofacial asymmetry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)682-692
Number of pages11
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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