Cephalohematoma: treatments and risk factors

Cephalohematoma refers to a bleeding outside of the blood vessels, or hematoma, that occurs between a baby's scalp and skull. It is the result of damage to the blood vessels during labor and delivery. Between 1 and 2% of babies develop it during or after birth, so expectant mothers in Washington may want to know more about the condition and what it might entail.

Since the blood is on top of the skull, it does not affect the brain. However, it will create a soft bulge at the back of the baby's skull. The bulge will harden as the blood calcifies and will shrink as the blood disappears. Though cephalohematoma comes with no long-term complications, it does raise the risk for developing anemia and jaundice.

Anemia is possible because the blood buildup can lower red blood cell counts. Jaundice may occur because bilirubin, a yellow pigment found in red blood cells, can be released in great quantities as the blood disappears. The first can be treated through transfusion, the second by phototherapy.

Difficult labor and abnormally positioned infants increase the risk for cephalohematoma. Weak uterine contractions that fail to push the baby into the birth canal are another risk factor. These contractions may, in turn, be weakened by the use of certain pain medications.

The condition can possibly be linked to medical malpractice in some cases. There must be proof that the doctors or nurses involved failed to adhere to generally accepted medical practices for a claim to be valid under birth injury law. This is where a lawyer may come in and help the parents build up the case. Third-party investigators might gather the necessary evidence, and the lawyer may be able to negotiate for a settlement covering medical expenses and other losses.

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