Cephalohematoma & Legal Compensation for Related Malpractice
Sometimes a difficult labor and delivery will result in a cephalohematoma. This is a pool of blood that collects when blood vessels burst in the tissue covering the skull. While a cephalohematoma normally resolves without problems, it can cause permanent disabilities if a doctor does not address it promptly. This is because the blood from the ruptured blood vessels puts pressure on brain tissue. Cephalohematomas that arise during childbirth or immediately afterward are known as acute hematomas. A cephalohematoma that arises later is known as a chronic hematoma. These types of hematomas sometimes occur when a doctor does not promptly diagnose and treat an acute hematoma.
Sometimes a cephalohematoma develops naturally from the pressure to the head from the pelvis of the mother during childbirth. The use of medical equipment during delivery, such as forceps or vacuum extraction devices, also may cause this condition, since it puts pressure on the baby’s head.
Doctors have several ways to check for the presence of a cephalohematoma in an infant. They may check the rate at which their head is growing, and they may analyze the amount of red blood cells in their blood. If red blood cells form a relatively low percentage of their blood, this may suggest a cephalohematoma. Other ways to diagnose this condition include imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. These can help pinpoint the site and extent of the condition.
Treatment for Cephalohematomas
If a doctor promptly identifies a cephalohematoma, the prognosis is usually excellent. A child with this condition can look forward to a full recovery in most cases. However, prompt action is critical when signs and symptoms appear. Ample rest may be enough to resolve the condition without surgery, but sometimes a doctor will need to operate on the area around a cephalohematoma. Surgery may be more advisable if a large blood clot has formed, the pooled blood is not draining properly, or a vein is continuing to bleed for longer than normal.
Complications of Cephalohematomas
Failing to promptly diagnose and treat a cephalohematoma may lead to complications of varying severity, such as skull fractures, calcification, anemia, infections, and jaundice. Skull fractures usually do not require specific treatment, but their status must be monitored. Calcification occurs when bone deposits collect around the pooled blood after the condition does not resolve promptly. This is a rare complication that may require surgery in some cases.
Infections that form in the pooled blood may become serious and even life-threatening, affecting a child’s entire body. These may include meningitis, which has a higher fatality rate among infants than among the general population. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics for infections. Antibiotics also may be appropriate for anemia, which is a lack of red blood cells that may arise from blood loss in a cephalohematoma. Children with anemia may need transfusions.
Another complication of cephalohematoma is jaundice. Signs of jaundice include yellowish skin and eyes. This condition involves an excessive accumulation of bilirubin, a waste product formed from the process of recycling blood cells. While a doctor may prescribe treatment such as light therapy for jaundice, it usually does not require major intervention if it is carefully monitored.
Why to Monitor Jaundice
Jaundice that is not resolved can develop into kernicterus, a brain disorder that can be fatal to some children.
Compensation for Cephalohematomas and Complications
More often than not, a doctor will promptly diagnose a cephalohematoma and set up a treatment plan that resolves it completely with no long-term effects. Timing is critical, though. If a doctor ignores signs and symptoms of this condition or its complications, a child may suffer permanent harm. Meanwhile, their family may shoulder a huge financial burden.
Parents may want to consider pursuing a medical malpractice claim for compensation if their child developed preventable complications of a cephalohematoma. They would need to prove that a doctor should have recognized the condition sooner, or should have treated it differently. The question of what a doctor should have done in a certain situation depends on what a competent doctor in their specialty would have done. Medical experts probably will need to testify about this professional standard of care.
Retaining experts and compiling other evidence of liability can be challenging without the assistance of a birth injury lawyer. Parents who suspect that their child suffered preventable harm should set up free consultations with attorneys in their area to see whether they may have a claim. If they pursue a lawsuit, they probably will not need to pay attorney fees upfront. Fees will be set aside as a percentage of the ultimate compensation award.