Caput Succedaneum and Cephalohematoma Birth Injuries
Head Swelling after Birth Lawyers in New Jersey
When a baby is born, you worry about what can go wrong, from major tragedies like death at birth, to possibly minor worries like a baby’s misshapen head. All parents want their babies to be healthy and flawless straight from the birth canal, but the truth is, many non-threatening conditions present at birth. Some of these are upsetting to see but are nothing to worry about, whereas other birth conditions are more alarming and need medical attention. Two such mild conditions are characterized by swollen scalps of the newborn, known as caput succedaneum and cephalohematoma.
Though these two conditions are relatively milder, they can develop into serious health problems, including lifelong disability for your child or even death if missteps occur. Faulty medical practices in the birthing process or lack of communication of hospital discharge instructions after birth, cause catastrophic harm to newborn babies every year and some can be deadly. Fragile newborns are susceptible to far more life-threatening illnesses than older children, and so must be carefully monitored if they leave the hospital with birth injuries. When your baby is injured by the neglect of your doctor or medical team, you probably feel many conflicting emotions, including anger and betrayal, especially when tragedy could have been avoided. You may feel better knowing that there are legal remedies for your baby’s injuries arising from mishandled caput succedaneum or cephalohematoma. Contact our distinguished New Jersey Caput Succedaneum and Cephalohematoma Attorneys to discuss your child’s complications from undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, of negligently treated head swelling after childbirth.
Meaning of Caput Succedaneum
Caput succedaneum (CS) commonly occurs after a long labor when the baby’s head has endured uterine or vaginal pressure coming out of the birth canal. It is not unusual after a long time pushing or when the mother’s water broke early, removing the liquid protection that cushions the baby against pressure while it remains inside of the mother’s womb. It may also occur after an instrument-assisted birth with a vacuum extractor. Sometimes the condition can be detected via ultrasound before the baby is born. It is diagnosed by examining a squishy bump on the baby’s scalp, perhaps accompanied by bruising, and the infant’s unusually large looking head.
While most situations involving the condition resolve on their own in a matter of days or weeks, caput succedaneum can become more serious when it causes jaundice. When an infant suffers from jaundice, it leaves the baby’s eyes and skin yellow since the baby’s red blood cells are broken down and too much bilirubin or yellow pigment is released. An infant’s newly developed liver may not be able to remove the bilirubin, and so it builds up. As the baby’s liver grows, so does its ability to process bilirubin, and jaundice may go away in a few weeks. An extremely high level of bilirubin or prolonged jaundice, however, can cause brain damage, deafness, or cerebral palsy, so a physician should be monitoring the bilirubin levels carefully. If too high, a treatment of light therapy called phototherapy can be used to help the baby lower the total amount of bilirubin through bowel movements and urination to clear the jaundice. Fortunately, most cases of CS go away without any need for medical intervention.
Cephalohematoma is a Worse Condition
Cephalohematoma or CH, is more serious. While it too is marked by a swollen scalp, the swelling with cephalohematoma is caused by blood pooled under the scalp due to ruptured blood vessels during birth. Since the blood collects in the exterior space and does not pool inside the skull, no risk of brain damage usually exists. However, the brain may still be impacted. Approximately 2% of babies experience cephalohematoma, making it a reasonably frequent condition after labor and delivery. Like CS, CH is notable for the newborn’s protruding scalp that may harden with dried blood underneath. CH too may lead to jaundice. It is also associated with other serious complications, including anemia and infection.
In terms of the cause, cephalohematoma is the result of the pounding of labor that causes delicate blood vessels to break, for example, the baby’s head jamming into the mother’s pelvis or excessive pressure due to the disproportionately large head of the baby to the mother’s pelvis. Likewise, forceps and vacuums used to assist difficult deliveries as well as extensively longer labor than usual, may also cause bleeding under the scalp. In fact, long labors often lead to instrument assisted deliveries, raising the risk two-fold of CH. Long labors occur most often when babies are too large to be delivered vaginally, the mother’s contractions are not strong enough to push the baby out, medications slow labor or weaken contractions, the baby is positioned other than facing downward, or the pregnancy involves a mother delivering twins, triplets, or more.
While the condition can clearly be detected by the swollen scalp, a diligent doctor will often conduct additional tests to make sure the infant does not have a more serious condition. A full panel of tests and scans, CT, X-ray, MRI, and ultrasound, may be used to detect or rule out other conditions causing the swelling. Physicians are also expected to follow up with continued monitoring of the baby’s condition to ensure complications do not occur, or if they do, they are caught early to reduce the risk of health dangers.
Possible Complications from Cephalohematoma
Cephalohematoma is known to improve and resolve on its own. Nevertheless, complications may occur if jaundice persists for too long or is too severe. Anemia, or low blood count, can also be dangerous, so an infant may need a blood transfusion to bolster a low red blood cell count. As such, doctors should send parents of newborns with cephalohematoma or caput succedaneum home with a warning to watch for changes in the bump on the head or scalp. For example, if it does not disappear, grows larger, or multiplies, this may indicate a further underlying problem requiring advanced treatment and care. The same goes for yellowing skin. Jaundice typically sets in a few days after birth. However, some babies already showing signs of listlessness or weakness may not be sent home so that medical personnel can closely monitor symptoms and changes and take immediate action should further signs of a medical problem occur.
Cephalohematoma, Caput Succedaneum & Medical Negligence
While both of the head swelling conditions caput succedaneum and cephalohematoma can be temporary and trivial in the grand scheme of things after birth, they can become dangerous and even life-threatening by the way they are handled or caused by medical negligence. Doctors who are unprepared for complications during labor and delivery or who make incorrect decisions at delivery may be responsible for unfortunate outcomes for mothers and babies. For example, an obstetrician who allows labor to continue for too long when cephalopelvic disproportion is the problem causing the prolonged labor, may contribute to the bruising and bleeding of the baby’s head. Once the physician spots the signs and detects the condition, which is easily detected during a sonogram, they must be prepared for a c-section delivery. Cesareans are often emergent when the woman delivering or her baby is in distress, whether it be due to a long labor or other factors that increase the risk for birth injuries. Similarly, physicians who do not expertly use forceps or vacuum extractors to deliver may cause harm to the baby with CS or CH or worse, with potential complications including brain damage.
Once a baby is born with either caput succedaneum or cephalohematoma, physicians who do not effectively communicate to parents the important signs to look for in the baby, including jaundice or anemia, may likewise be responsible for injury resulting from a baby with severe jaundice that has been neglected too long. Even within medical offices, misdiagnosis, lack of thorough patient exams, and incomplete communication could mean a message reporting a newborn’s yellow skin or other symptoms is missed. While some medical mistakes are unavoidable, many are avoidable. This is more than unacceptable. It may be cause for legal action.
Get in Touch with an Experienced NJ Attorney if Your Baby has Cephalohematoma or Caput Succedaneum Related Complications
If your baby suffered from complications arising from substandard medical treatment of CS or CH, contact us today to discuss your legal rights and available avenues. Depending on the case and what happened, it is important to find out what a medical malpractice attorney can do to ensure that you receive the compensation owed to you and your baby if mistakes or negligence occurred. You may be entitled to damages to pay for your child’s past and future medical needs, as well as to compensate your family for the psychological costs of Caput Succedaneum or Cephalohematoma injuries. We assist clients throughout New Jersey and provide free consultations around the clock. Call (866)-708-8617 to learn more.