An intracranial hemorrhage is a medical condition and childbirth injury that involves bleeding somewhere inside the skull. There are numerous different types of intracranial hemorrhages, each one of them depending on where, precisely, the bleeding is happening inside the skull. Among the many kinds of intracranial hemorrhages is a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which involves bleeding in between two of the thin membranes that encase the brain inside the skull – the pia mater and the arachnoid mater. When blood escapes into the brain, it can cause a myriad of medical problems, including permanent mental and physical disabilities or cerebral palsy.
Causes of Intracranial and Subarachnoid Hemorrhages
Brain bleeds – medically known as hemorrhages – are typically the result of some sort of trauma to the head. However, during the delivery process, blood can escape into a newborn baby's brain from a variety of other causes that center around problems dealing with the blood pressure of the baby or the mother.
However, trauma during delivery – always a traumatic experience for both the mother and the newborn – is commonly the culprit for an intracranial or a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Trauma-induced hemorrhages can come in a variety of situations, including:
- Macrosomia. Especially large babies, weighing more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces, can present a problem during the delivery process. When such a large newborn has to be delivered, its journey through the birth canal, particularly through the pelvis, can involve such tight squeezes that the resulting pressure on his or her brain can lead to a hemorrhage.
- Cephalopelvic Disproportion (CPD). Similar to the problems caused by macrosomia, CPD involves an especially large fetus, a fetus that is poorly oriented in the womb, a small pelvis, or a combination of these factors, and can result in especially high pressure on the baby's brain during the delivery process. If this pressure is too much, it can cause a hemorrhage.
- Improper delivery techniques. Possibly the most common cause of an intracranial or a subarachnoid hemorrhage, an improper delivery technique can put excessive pressure on a newborn baby's skull, causing a hemorrhage. If a doctor, nurse, or midwife uses delivery instruments like forceps or a vacuum extractor to help deliver a baby, the chances for a hemorrhage skyrocket because of the grip that they need to get on a baby's skull to get them through the birth canal.
In addition to these trauma-induced hemorrhages, hemorrhages can also be caused by blood conditions in either the mother or the infant. For example:
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) can cause a hemorrhage in a baby's brain. HIE is a different kind of perinatal brain injury that involves the baby not getting enough blood and oxygen during the delivery. The lack of blood flow causes blood cells to die, which can break down the walls of blood vessels within the baby's brain. If these blood vessels rupture within the skull, the result is an intracranial hemorrhage.
- Hemophilia or other blood disorders can prevent the blood from clotting or flowing properly, increasing the risk of bleeding in the brain.
- Blood pressure issues can cause intracranial hemorrhages, as well, by making blood flow too quickly or too slowly through a baby's brain during delivery.
All of these risks increase dramatically if the newborn is being born prematurely. Everything about a premature baby is underdeveloped, including their blood vessels. Should one of these blood vessels break down within a premature baby's skull, it would cause a severe intracranial hemorrhage.
Conditions Caused by Intracranial or Subarachnoid Hemorrhages
When blood escapes into a baby's brain, the new liquid there creates pressure that the skull, along with the brain inside of it, is unable to handle effectively. Something has to give way as the blood enters, and when it does it can damage the brain matter and cause a variety of significant medical problems. These include:
- Mental disabilities. When the brain matter gets compromised by the pressure created when blood escapes inside the skull, it can reduce a baby's future mental capacity and abilities, leading to lower IQ, learning disabilities, mental impairments, and difficulty with social interaction. These can radically reduce a baby's future well-being, as it is less able to keep up with the mental rigors of life and with the development of other children.
- Physical disabilities. If the blood escapes and harms a part of the brain that deals with a child's physical development, that development will be compromised by the pressure that the blood puts on the brain. This can impact many different aspects of a child's physical ability, from their motor skills to their vision.
- Epilepsy. A common long-term condition caused by an intracranial hemorrhage is epilepsy. This can happen if the brain tissue is significantly damaged by the pressure exerted by the blood, as it escapes into a newborn's skull.
Intracranial and Subarachnoid Hemorrhages, and Medical Malpractice
There are numerous ways that intracranial or subarachnoid hemorrhages can be avoided, prevented, or minimized. If a healthcare professional fails to notice some of the warning signs that often precede such a hemorrhage, or if they see the warning signs and then fail to take the proper action to correct them, it could amount to medical malpractice.
Because many instances of intracranial or subarachnoid hemorrhages are associated with blood pressure problems or issues from the baby's size or orientation inside the womb, doctors are in a position where they can prevent these hemorrhages from ever happening by correctly prescribing drugs to deal with the blood pressure problems or by using a different delivery technique. Additionally, many of the remaining instances of intracranial or subarachnoid hemorrhage occur when a doctor poorly extracts the baby from the birth canal during delivery.
In either one of these cases, the hemorrhage is often completely preventable, making it fair and just for you to be compensated for the losses suffered by you and your baby.
Birth Injury Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian
That is where the trial attorneys at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian can help. We represent medical malpractice victims and fight for their rights in court. Contact us online or call us at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.