MITCHELL LATTOF | December 14, 2020 | Medical Malpractice
Birth injuries cause pain and suffering for the infant and the parents. Some birth injuries are caused by negligence and medical errors. Other injuries are due to conditions beyond anyone’s control.
Understanding birth injuries to the head can help parents evaluate their legal options for medical malpractice claims. Cephalohematoma is a birth injury that occurs at a rate of .04 percent to 2.5 percent of all live births.
The condition is not generally severe or life-threatening, but there is the possibility of complications that parents should be aware of if their baby is diagnosed with a cephalohematoma.
What is Cephalohematoma?
A cephalohematoma occurs when blood vessels on the head are broken because of trauma during birth. The ruptured blood vessels cause blood to collect between the skull and the periosteum (the membrane covering the outer surface of bones). In most cases, a cephalohematoma does not present any risks or problems for a newborn.
How Does a Doctor Diagnose a Cephalohematoma?
A cephalohematoma is not usually evident at birth because the bleeding is gradual. It could be hours or days before parents might notice the signs or symptoms of a cephalohematoma.
The most common sign of a cephalohematoma is the swelling or bulge on a baby’s head. There may also be bruising on the baby’s head.
A doctor could request additional tests, including ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI, or x-rays, to determine if there are additional injuries to the baby’s skull that could affect the brain.
How Do Doctors Treat a Cephalohematoma?
With time, the blood clots and calcifies. Eventually, the body reabsorbs the blood. It could take several weeks or months for the blood to be reabsorbed, depending on the circumstances.
Draining the blood is generally not recommended because of the risk of complications from the procedure, including infections and abscess formations.
Several conditions could be associated with cephalohematoma. Some infants may develop conditions such as:
- Linear skull fractures
- Skull deformities from calcification of the cephalohematoma
If a newborn has a cephalohematoma, doctors should carefully monitor the child for complications and other conditions. Immediate treatment may be required to prevent further risk or life-threatening conditions for the infant.
What Causes an Infant to Develop a Cephalohematoma?
There are many different reasons why an infant could develop a cephalohematoma during labor and delivery. Some of the common factors that can increase pressure on the infant’s head and cause the blood vessels to rupture include:
- Prolonged labor and delivery
- Abnormal fetal position
- Uses of vacuum extraction or forceps during delivery
- Twins, triplets, and other multiples
- Weak uterine contractions
- The infant is larger than average (fetal macrosomia)
Some cases of cephalohematoma are unavoidable. However, doctors and medical staff should evaluate a mother for risk factors and take steps to reduce the infant’s risk of sustaining a cephalohematoma during labor. Failing to analyze risk factors and take appropriate measures is one of the common causes of birth injuries.
Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Birth Injuries
If your baby sustained a cephalohematoma during birth, you and your infant might have a medical malpractice claim for damages.
When a medical provider’s poor judgment, negligence, errors, or other wrongdoing contributes to an injury to the child or the mother, the medical provider can be financially liable for damages.
Damages for a birth injury claim can include:
- Medical bills and expenses to treat the birth injury
- Anticipated medical expenses and loss of income because of permanent impairments and disabilities
- Pain and suffering experienced by the child now and in the future
- Permanent scarring, disfigurement, or disabilities
The amount of compensation your child might be entitled to receive for a birth injury claim depends on the injury’s type and severity. Cases involving permanent impairments or disabling conditions can include lifelong costs of personal and medical care, as well as the loss of income and earning potential.
Proving Medical Malpractice Caused Your Child’s Birth Injury
While doctors and other health care providers are held to a high standard, you must prove that the provider failed to provide care that meets or exceeds the standard of care for your situation. You must also prove that the breach of care was a direct cause of your infant’s injury and damages. For malpractice to exist, your child must have sustained damage because of a medical error or negligence.
Proving negligence or malpractice was the cause of your infant’s cephalohematoma or another birth injury can be a challenging undertaking. You may want to discuss your case with a medical malpractice lawyer.
Birth injuries are traumatic for the parents and the infant. The first priority is the health and wellbeing of your child. However, do not wait to contact a lawyer to discuss a medical malpractice claim because the time to file a claim is limited by Alabama’s statute of limitations.