A caput succedaneum is a type of injury a newborn may experience at birth. Potential complications can arise if this condition is not monitored or diagnosed properly. If a doctor or other health care professional fails to uphold the proper standard of care, that individual can be liable for the damages that his or her negligence causes.
Caput succedaneum is a condition that can occur in a newborn that is brought into this world through a vaginal birth. According to the Academy of Neonatal Nursing, a caput succedaneum is “a collection of edematous fluid above the periosteum between the outermost layer of the scalp and the subcutaneous tissue.” This accumulation of fluid causes swelling on the top of an infant's head and pressing on the edema can cause characteristic pitting in the edema.
In addition to swelling, other symptoms include bruising or change of color where the swelling occurs. This swelling can extend over both sides of the infant's scalp and often occurs in the part of the head which first presented during delivery.
Causes of Caput Succedaneum
The use of a delivery assistance tool like a vacuum can cause caput succedaneum. Prior to performing a vacuum-assisted delivery a doctor must see signs that one is necessary such as prolonged labor or fetal distress. In order to perform this type of procedure, the doctor must attach a cup to the head of the infant in order to help it move through the vaginal canal. The point at which the cup is placed can causes an artificial caput succedaneum, also called a chignon.
A caput succedaneum may shrink and heal within a couple of days. However, in some cases, complications can result. Some of these are as follows:
- Jaundice: This condition occurs when there is too much bilirubin in the blood which causes an infant's skin to yellow. While jaundice should clear up on its own within a couple of weeks. However, if it doesn't and goes untreated it can result in more serious health issues.
- Halo Scalp Ring: Another potential complication is a halo scalp ring, which is a form of alopecia. This condition occurs if “hair loss develops as a result of tissue necrosis from prolonged pressure against the ring of the cervical os during the birthing process.” While the hair will often grow back, in some cases the hair loss and scarring can be permanent.
- Misdiagnosis: A caput succedaneum is just one thing that can cause swelling of an infant's scalp after birth. Other conditions that can also cause this issue are more serious including, such as a subgaleal hemorrhage which can be life-threatening.
A doctor should take care to examine any swelling on an infant's head after the child is born in order to determine which condition the child may have. While a caput succedaneum may be a relatively minor injury, others can be much more serious. Failing to take care to monitor and diagnose the source of the swelling in an infant's head can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening consequences. A doctor or other medical care professional who doesn't act within the proper standard of care can be held liable for his or her negligent actions.