Cephalohematoma: Signs & Symptoms

When a child is born with problems, the first reaction of most parents is, quite understandably, fear. Confusion can reign supreme, with concern over their child’s quality of life eclipsing any and all other matters. However, if your baby has been injured, rather than born with a disability, seeking redress may help your family financially and emotionally. One of the most common birth injuries which can provoke later complications is called a cephalohematoma, or swelling at the top and back of the head.

What Is Cephalohematoma?

A cephalohematoma is a swelling, usually from a minor internal hemorrhage, between the skull and the membrane covering it. Blood collects there due to birth-related trauma, most often in forceps or vacuum-aided deliveries. Long labor may also play a role, especially if the baby is trapped in an awkward position while exiting the birth canal. There is another similar injury called a Caput succedaneum, but a cephalohematoma occurs below the membrane, while a Caput succedaneum occurs above the skull’s covering membrane, between it and the scalp. A Caput succedaneum will also disappear more quickly and easily than a cephalohematoma; the former may take days, while the latter takes weeks.

An important thing to keep in mind is that both of these injuries happen above the bones of the skull, most often the parietal bone. This does not mean there has been any injury to the child’s brain though.

Distinguishing A Cephalohematoma

Cephalohematomas occur in between 0.2% – 2.5% of live births, but the majority of them will not cause lasting injury. Most of them will resolve themselves without any overt interference, though doctors commonly will perform an ultrasound or x-ray to rule out things like skull fracture or subdural hematoma (a serious head injury which causes blood to pool on the surface of the brain itself).

Some of them are severe, however. A severe cephalohematoma can result from a skull fracture or other mishandling of delivery, especially if forceps are involved. The most common injury that can occur from severe cephalohematoma is jaundice – sometimes a cephalohematoma is so large that when the blood in it begins to break down, it raises the baby’s bilirubin levels, thus causing the yellow skin and eye color. Anemia is also a possibility, if the cephalohematoma is so large that a significant part of the blood supply is diverted. However, despite possible risks, cephalohematomas are almost never drained, due to the risk of infection. Studies in Taiwan showed that infection led to minor symptoms like redness and fever, but also for bacteria like E.coli to infiltrate the baby’s systems.

Medical Malpractice Claims for Cephalohematomas

If your child is one of the few to sustain a severe injury due to a cephalohematoma, you will likely be able to bring a birth injury claim. Medical malpractice claims in Kentucky have a one-year statute of limitations on them, meaning that the claim must be filed within one year of the injury, or within one year of the injury being discovered (or when it ought reasonably to have been discovered). Unlike many other states, Kentucky also has no damage caps in medical malpractice suits, which may influence a medical professional or hospital toward settlement – the possibility of large verdicts does exist.

If your child has been injured by a doctor’s negligence, we may be able to assist. The attorneys at Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC have a history of excellence, and we will fight for you. Contact us today.