What Is a Newborn Cephalohematoma?


During birth, an infant’s head can suffer trauma from excessive pressure applied by instruments or the mother’s pelvic bones when the birth canal is too small or when the baby is too large. Newborn cephalohematoma can result from these types of trauma, causing ruptured blood vessels to build up in the tissue covering the skull called the periosteum. When this type of injury occurs, it could be the result of medical negligence.

What Is a Newborn Cephalohematoma?

A newborn cephalohematoma is a type of hematoma that occurs in the periosteum. Blood will pool around the ruptured blood vessels and pressure the tissues of the brain. If this condition is not diagnosed immediately and treated, it can lead to lifelong disabilities or be fatal. Newborn cephalohematoma is a relatively rare condition, occurring in up to 2.5% of all births. While many cases will resolve, in others the babies will either die or face lifelong disabilities.

Infants who suffer acute infant hematoma will show symptoms either immediately or within a couple of hours of birth. Acute infant hematoma must be promptly treated or it might result in chronic infant hematoma. Those who suffer from chronic infant hematoma might not show symptoms until a few weeks after birth. Infants who are treated promptly for acute infant hematoma generally have positive outcomes. If they are not properly diagnosed or treated, severe brain damage or death might result.

Cephalohematoma vs Caput Succedaneum

Some infants are born with caput succedaneum, which involves swelling of the scalp caused by pressure during delivery. This does not involve ruptured blood vessels beneath the scalp and normally disappears within a few days of birth without treatment. Caput succedaneum can happen in difficult deliveries or when a doctor has to use vacuum extraction.

Causes of Newborn Cephalohematoma

Newborn cephalohematoma is caused by trauma to the baby’s head during birth. In some cases, they occur when the baby’s head is pushed up against the pelvic bone of the mother. In others, a newborn cephalohematoma might be caused because of complications when using forceps or vacuum extraction.

Newborn cephalohematomas normally happen during difficult labor and delivery. When it takes too much time to deliver a baby, his or her head might be compressed and result in a cephalohematoma.

Infant Size

Large fetuses are more likely to suffer from cephalohematomas than small or average-sized fetuses. They are also more likely to occur in males than females. However, average-sized fetuses sometimes suffer from cephalohematomas when their mother has a small pelvis.

Vacuum Extraction or Forceps Use

In some difficult births, doctors will use forceps or vacuum extraction to deliver babies. These types of assisted-delivery devices can place added pressure on an infant’s head and increase the risks of newborn cephalohematomas.

Medical Errors

Doctors should properly assess the risk of a newborn cephalohematoma and take steps to reduce the risk and monitor the infant following delivery. If a doctor fails to take steps to decrease the risk, fails to properly monitor an infant for a hematoma, or misuses assisted-delivery devices during delivery, it could constitute medical negligence when it results in harm.

Risk Factors for Newborn Cephalohematomas

Some of the common risk factors for newborn cephalohematomas include the following:

  • Large fetus
  • Using forceps or vacuum extractors
  • Mother carrying multiple infants
  • Prolonged or difficult labor
  • Fetus in a breech position
  • Mother unable to push the baby through the canal
  • Premature birth

Potential Complications

Some of the potential complications of a newborn cephalohematoma include the following:

  • Anemia
  • Skull deformity from calcification of the hematoma
  • Skull fracture
  • Systemic infection
  • Jaundice

What Are the Symptoms of Newborn Cephalohematoma?

The symptoms of a newborn cephalohematoma include the following:

  • Visible pooled blood under the scalp
  • Seizures
  • Skull-area pain
  • Difficulty feeding
  • High-pitched cry
  • Swelling
  • Soft spots
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Rapidly increasing head circumference

The symptoms might appear immediately after birth or a few days or weeks later.

How Are Newborn Cephalohematomas Diagnosed and Treated?

Doctors monitor the head circumference to check whether it is expanding too quickly. They also check babies’ hematocrit levels to see if they are too low. Imaging scans will likely be ordered when newborn cephalohematomas are suspected to help them determine the hematoma’s size and location of the bleeding.

Parents who believe that their babies might have hematomas should see their doctors immediately. In some cases, a doctor might need to perform surgery to remove a large clot, drain pooled blood, or tie off a bleeding blood vessel. Some of the potential treatments that might be used to treat complications of a cephalohematoma include the following:

  • Antibiotics, phototherapy, or blood transfusions to treat anemia
  • Surgery to treat calcification of a hematoma
  • Monitoring to ensure that fractures properly heal
  • Antibiotics to treat infection
  • Phototherapy and monitoring to treat jaundice

If a cephalohematoma is properly treated, it normally will not cause serious problems.

Prognosis for Newborn Cephalohematomas

Children who receive prompt and proper treatment for newborn cephalohematomas will likely be able to live normal lives without suffering disabilities. However, those who do not receive prompt diagnoses or treatment might suffer developmental and physical disabilities or could die.

Talk to an Experienced Birth Injury Attorney About a Cephalohematoma Newborn

If your child suffered disabilities as a result of an improperly diagnosed or treated newborn cephalohematoma, you might be entitled to pursue compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit. A birth injury attorney at Raynes & Lawn can review the medical records in your child’s case and determine whether you might have legal grounds to file a legal claim. To learn more about your legal options, call us today for a free case evaluation at 1-800-535-1797.

For the general public: This Blog/Website is made available by the law firm publisher, Raynes & Lawn, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

For attorneys: This Blog/Website is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients. Due to the dynamic nature of legal doctrines, what might be accurate one day may be inaccurate the next. As such, the contents of this blog must not be relied upon as a basis for arguments to a court or for your advice to clients without, again, further research or a consultation with our professionals.