Caput Succedaneum

Women have been giving birth to children for quite literally millions of years. Over that course of time, medical science has advanced to the point where labor is as safe as it possibly can be compared to the deliveries our ancestors had to endure, but even in modern hospitals, the possibility of birth injury – and malpractice claims arising from birth injury – still arise. Here’s what you need to know about one such birth injury, known as caput succedaneum, and what to do if you think a birth injury malpractice claim can be made for your child if he or she suffers from the condition.

Caput succedaneum often occurs during head-first deliveries when the pressure exerted on the head of the child injures the scalp, most often when the membranes break and the child’s head is no longer cushioned by the amniotic sac. Doctors using forceps or vacuum extraction tools to help deliver a child can increase the chance of the baby developing caput succedaneum, especially if too much force is used or if the doctor doesn’t use the tools properly. The good news is that caput succedaneum isn’t life threatening in and of itself and, in fact, likely causes only slight discomfort for the child. However, the bad news is that the condition could cause more serious health issues down the road.

Causes, Symptoms, and Other Information

Symptoms of the condition include swelling of the scalp across the child’s suture lines and midline, bruises on the scalp, or puffiness under the skin of the scalp, which is usually the most easily spotted symptom. In most cases, the condition heals within just a few days, making it unnecessary to treat. In most cases, doctors will be loath to drain any swelling in the scalp area in order to avoid any possibility of infection. In fact, the only danger caput succedaneum poses to infants is after the bruising diminishes; this could result in the child’s bilirubin levels increasing, which could cause the baby to develop jaundice.

Dangers of Caput Succedaneum-Triggered Jaundice

Jaundice on its own isn’t necessarily a dangerous condition for a child to have, as long as it’s diagnosed early and then treated properly. Treatment typically involves phototherapy in order to break up the bilirubin and reduce its levels in the body to normal amounts. However, if jaundice is not treated, it can be life-threatening for the child and include severe complications such as a form of brain damage known as Kernicterus which can lead to hearing loss, forms of cerebral palsy and other complications.

Making a Case for Birth Injury Malpractice

Having a child who develops caput succedaneum as a result of a birth injury is usually not conducive to making a case for birth injury malpractice against the hospital or the doctor who delivered the baby. It would take a very specific set of circumstances before the injury done to the child rises to the level where a medical negligence claim would be appropriate. If the child’s caput succedaneum led to an increase in bilirubin levels that caused him or her to develop jaundice, which in turn led to complications such as Kernicterus, then there could be a case for medical malpractice, but only if the jaundice was undiagnosed or misdiagnosed by medical personnel who had a duty of care to the child. Thankfully, most parents will never have to worry about such an instance, instead only having to wait a few days before their newborn’s scalp returns to normal.