While obstetric medicine has come a long way, there are still numerous things that can go wrong during the birth of a child. One issue that can arise is that the child may suffer an injury during delivery, such as a cephalohematoma. While some injuries are unavoidable, some can be the result of negligence on the part of the delivery doctor, nurse, or other medical professional assisting with the birthing process. This page will discuss cephalohematomas, how they are caused, and the risks associated with this condition.
A cephalohematoma is a “collection of blood under the periosteum of a skull bone.” The periosteum is a “dense fibrous membrane covering the surfaces of bones, consisting of an outer fibrous layer and an inner cellular layer.” Cephalohematomas typically occur over the occipital bone, which is the “trapezoidal-shaped bone found at the lower back area of the cranium.” An infant with this condition will typically have a bump on his or her head where the hematoma is located. There are also other conditions that can cause a bump on an infant's head including caput succedaneum and subgaleal hemorrhage.
Medical Errors and Cephalohematoma
This condition often occurs when the child suffers some sort of trauma to the skull during the birthing process. This trauma can be caused by a number of things such as prolonged labor or the use of delivery-assistance tools such as a forceps or a vacuum-extraction tool. A doctor or other medical professional should take care to closely monitor the baby's progress as the birth proceeds and make the proper medical decisions so as to minimize any potential risks to the child. In addition, a doctor using a delivery-assistance tool should make sure to use the tool as intended in order to prevent the baby from being harmed.
A cephalohematoma can occur during a particularly long labor. The skull can be compressed as it travels through the birth canal and if there is a large amount of stress on the skull this can lead to the formation of this type of hematoma. If labor is going on too long and it is causing the baby distress, the doctor should look at what options are available to move the birth along, such as an emergency c-section or the use delivery-assistance tools. Failure to assist an infant in a timely manner could be considered malpractice.
Misuse of Delivery-Assistance Tools
There are two types of delivery tools that are commonly used in deliveries: forceps and vacuum-extracted tools. These tools are used in about 5% of births in the United States. Of the two tools, vacuum-delivery tools are used more often than forceps. There are certain indications that a doctor needs to see in order to decide that a delivery tool is needed. These signs include: fetal distress, prolonged labor, or maternal exhaustion. In addition, a mother may elect to move the delivery along with the help of delivery assistance tool. If these tools are not used properly or if too much force is applied then a cephalohematoma may result.
Risks Associated With Cephalohematoma
In general, a cephalohematoma will heal on its own after a few weeks. However, it is possible that it could turn into something more serious. The following are some of the possible things that could occur as a result of a cephalohematoma:
- Calcification: If the cephalohematoma lasts longer than about a month then it is possible that the hematoma will start to calcify or ossify. This can result in the child's skull being deformed.
- Infection: If the cephalohematoma becomes infected this can lead to the child suffering from other maladies such as meningitis.
- Hyperbilirubinemia and Jaundice: According to the Academy of Neonatal Nursing, hyperbilirubinemia is a common side effect of cephalohematomas. Hyperbilirubinemia occurs when the “red bloods cells in the cephalohematoma are destroyed, yielding the byproduct of heme, which is metabolized into bilirubin, resulting in an increase in bilirubin levels.” Stanford Children's Health states that the bilirubin “has pigment or coloring.” This is what causes jaundice, “a yellowing of the baby's skin, eyes and other tissues.” This condition can usually be resolved using phototherapy or other methods. If the bilirubin levels become too large, then it may “circulate to tissues in the brain. This can cause a condition called kernicterus, which can cause brain damage and seizures.
Contact A Philadelphia Birth Injury Attorney
If your child was injured during the birthing process and you believe your child's injury was caused by negligence, please do not hesitate to contact the law firm of Gilman and Bedigian today for a free consultation.