Telemedicine can be an effective tool for the evaluation of the pediatric patient with a cranial deformity, but it increases the reliance of neurosurgical providers on data provided by patients and families. Family-acquired photographs, in particular, can be used to augment the evaluation of pediatric head shape abnormalities via telemedicine, but photographs of sufficient quality are necessary. Here, the authors systematically reviewed the quality and utility of family-acquired photographs for patients referred to their pediatric neurosurgery clinic for telemedicine-based head shape evaluations.
All telemedicine encounters that were completed for head shape abnormalities at the authors’ institution between May 2020 and December 2021 were retrospectively reviewed. Instructions were sent to families prior to each visit with examples of ideal photographs. Three orthogonal views of the patient’s head—frontal, lateral, and vertex—were requested. Data were collected regarding demographics, diagnosis, follow-up, and photograph quality. Quality variables included orthogonality of each requested view, appropriate distance, appropriate lighting, presence of distracting elements, and whether hair obscured the head shape.
Overall, 565 patients had 892 visits during the study period. A total of 1846 photograph requests were made, and 3335 photographs were received for 829 visits. Of 2676 requested orthogonal views, 1875 (70%) were received. Of these, 1826 (97%) had adequate lighting, 1801 (96%) had appropriate distance, and 1826 (97%) had no distracting features. Hair did not obscure the head shape on the vertex view in 557 visits with orthogonal vertex views (82%). In-person follow-up was requested for further medical evaluation in 40 visits (5%).
The family-acquired photographs in this series demonstrated high rates of adequate lighting and distance, without distracting features. Lack of orthogonality and obscuration of the head shape by hair, however, were more common issues. Family education prior to the visit may improve the quality of family-acquired photographs but requires an investment of time by medical staff. Efforts to further improve photographic quality will facilitate efforts to perform craniometric evaluations through telemedicine visits.