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A cephalhematoma is a fairly common birth injury that most often occurs during labors where the use of forceps or a vacuum extractor is utilized. Cephalhematoma happens when the baby’s head hits into or gets wedged against the mother’s pelvic bone while she is giving birth. The term “cephalhematoma” refers to the lesion that forms on a newborn’s head because of the accumulation of blood beneath the parietal area of the skull, located between the top of the head and the middle of the back of the head.
Not to be confused with a subdural hematoma, which is a pool of blood that gathers inside the skull, a cephalhematoma is an assemblage of blood that occurs beneath the skin of the scalp due to how the tissue under the scalp is connected. Cephalhematoma is different from a subdural hematoma in that it stays outside of the skull and usually does not cross the middle of the top of the head.
A cephalhematoma occurs in about 1% – 2% of natural vaginal deliveries. For deliveries that require the use of forceps or a vacuum extractor, it occurs in about 3% – 4% of those types of births. Having a cephalhematoma does not necessarily mean that the child will suffer further from injuries. Typically it will cause anemia and/or jaundice within days two and five of life; however, there are instances where a cephalhematoma can hide brain trauma and/or a skull fracture. In addition, a child with cephalhematoma may be vulnerable to infection from bacteria entering the blood when the blood seeps back into the body and flows through the heart to other areas of the body.
Another risk is the possibility of the onset of infection occurring inside the cephalhematoma lesion. Although this is a far less common occurrence, doctors and nurses should closely monitor any newborn at risk if the lesion enlarges, if the baby’s head grows in circumference, or if the lesion is more tender than usual.
Generally, the lesion and lump on the child’s head will take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to completely heal. Most heal within the first three months of the child’s birth. During the healing process, the blood and cells that are trapped between the skull and the baby’s skin break down and are absorbed back into the baby’s body. In most cases, the cephalhematoma heals from the inside out and the outer rim of the lesion will start to harden as the calcium in the baby’s body goes to the spot to protect it. This can look disturbing, but it is actually part of the normal healing process and is actually a good thing. After the baby’s cephalhematoma has physically healed, physicians will get x-rays to ensure the baby’s skull has no damage.
Although cephalohematomas are fairly common and the chances that a baby with a cephalhematoma will heal are very good, there are still those few instances where a negligent medical professional will rely on the odds that it is nothing more serious and fail to closely follow the baby after birth. If this happens and your child has also suffered from broken growth plates, traumatic brain damage, or a skull fracture, then you may have a medical malpractice claim against the hospital physician or nurse in question and the institution or hospital for which they work. Call the Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyers at Richards & Richards, LLP today for a free consultation at 412-261-2620.