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Cephalohematoma & Birth-Related Head Trauma

Sometimes, when a child is being born, they need assistance out of the birth canal. There are several methods for a doctor to use to help extricate the child, but this process is not without risks. The baby can suffer head trauma due to excessive force, which may be actionable. The most common variation of this head trauma is called cephalohematoma.

Causes, Symptoms and Potential Risks

Cephalohematomas and other, similar types of traumas are almost always caused by either long labor or the use of a tool to help ease the child’s way out of the birth canal – most often a forceps or vacuum extractor. The medical definition of cephalohematoma is a collection of blood underneath the periosteum, the membrane that covers the skull. Other types of head trauma can occur either above the periosteum (called a caput succedaneum), below the bones of the skull (called an epidural hematoma), or between the dura, a protective membrane, and the brain – called a subdural hematoma, which is by far the most dangerous variety.

Some of the symptoms of cephalohematoma and other trauma are visible to the naked eye, but there are many that are internal. The most common symptom of cephalohematoma and caput succedaneum will be a large lump on the infant’s head, looking not unlike a “goose egg” from an accident. Others include:

  • Anemia;
  • Jaundice – yellowish skin and eyes;
  • Infection; and
  • Confusion and dizziness, for epidural or subdural hematomas.

If your baby loses consciousness or experiences seizures, they may have a subdural hematoma, which mandates immediate emergency care.

Diagnosis and Treatment – Or Lack Thereof

Cephalohematomas and the other types of trauma are usually diagnosed by CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Treatment is usually mild; cephalohematomas and caput succedaneum will resolve themselves, in the absence of infection – epidural and subdural hematomas may require surgery to ease the pressure on the sufferer’s brain. Rarely, a cephalohematoma will accompany a minor skull fracture, which must be treated accordingly.

One point that any medical professional should be aware of is that if a cephalohematoma is drained, there is an extremely high chance of infection and further harm. These wounds are benign, and do not require affirmative treatment in the majority of cases. It is prima facie evidence of malpractice in most cases if a doctor chooses to drain a wound of this nature.

Another common cause of action for malpractice is a failure to diagnose, either infection or subdural hematoma. While cephalohematomas are hard to miss due to the large lump usually present, subdural and epidural hematomas present fewer external signs, and a failure to diagnose either in sufficient time for treatment is a breach of the standard of care. A medical professional has a duty to their patients under law; if it has been breached, they must be held accountable.

Seek A Strong Ally

If your baby has been injured, it can be terrible and frightening for you as a parent. Having a competent legal professional on your side can make a big difference. The firm of Gary Roberts & Associates has a long history with this type of case, and we keep medical experts on staff to help craft a solid case. Our West Palm Beach office offers appointments at flexible hours, to work with your schedule, and we are able to accommodate Spanish speakers. Call us to discuss your options today.

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