Infant Cephalohematoma

When it comes to medical conditions that newborns can develop during their birth, one of the more rare birth injuries is infant cephalohematoma. Only occurring in around 1 percent to 2 percent of all births, infant cephalohematoma usually doesn’t happen unless medical personnel uses birth-assisting tools such as forceps to aid in delivery. While it’s considered to be a minor injury – and one that is likely to heal on its own without any complications – there are instances where infant cephalohematoma can lead to possibly dangerous conditions that might necessitate a birth injury malpractice claim.

A hematoma is a solid swelling of clotted blood within human tissue. A cephalohematoma is a hematoma that occurs on the head of an infant, beneath the skin but above the skull in the region called the periosteum. There’s no risk posed to the brain, but there are risk factors associated with uncontrolled blood pooling in that location.

Usually occurring during labor and delivery, a cephalohematoma may not occur from any visible birth injury. However, it’s been proven by the UBM Medica Network that the birth injury most associated with the condition is related to the use of forceps to aid in the delivery of the child, especially since most births are head-first, and forceps are routinely used on the heads of infants as they’re born. However, if it can be proven that the doctor delivering the child caused the birth injury through the use of forceps but shouldn’t have used them – or used them in an improper manner – this could open up the doctor for liability in a birth injury malpractice or related medical negligence claim.

Symptoms of the Condition

This type of birth injury is mostly an internal one. This makes it harder to spot than an obvious birth injury such as a cut or laceration. Additionally, newborn children may not present any behavioral symptoms that could clue parents or doctors indirectly. However, there are some symptoms that are associated with cephalohematomas such as jaundice, infection, and anemia; one of the biggest warning signs is if you find an unnatural bulge on the head of the child. In such an event, parents or caregivers should contact a physician immediately to have the bulge examined.

Care for a child suffering from cephalohematoma includes verifying the existence of the hematoma by computer imaging, most often through an MRI or a CT scan. Once confirmed, doctors can provide guidance on treatment; however, in most cases an infant cephalohematoma will go away on its own over the course of the first three months of life. It’s only in extremely rare situations that physicians will recommend surgery to drain the blood that has been pooling in the child’s head because of the risk of infection or abscess. Though, if the amount of blood is building up in the hematoma, is so great that the red blood cell count of the child has lowered, it may necessitate a blood transfusion for the child.

However, there is one risk associated with cephalohematoma, and that’s the development of jaundice. As the pooled blood begins to break down within the body, this can increase the level of bilirubin in the child’s body. With heightened bilirubin being one of the primary causes of jaundice, levels high enough to place the child at risk of the condition may need to be treated through phototherapy or other types of treatments.