What Is Caput Succedaneum?


Parents are usually alarmed when they see their newborn’s head is swollen. However, some causes of swelling are dangerous, while others are not. Caput Succedaneum is usually not harmful, but parents and doctors do need to watch out for potentially serious complications.

What Is Caput Succedaneum?

Caput succedaneum is a common condition that causes swelling around the skulls of newborn babies. Usually, it is not a serious condition and will clear up on its own in a few days. However, in some cases, it can lead to jaundice, which in turn can cause dangerous illnesses. If bruising is visible, that’s a sign that jaundice may develop.

What Causes Caput Succedaneum?

Infants have skulls made of plates that have not yet completely fused. During delivery, the plates can overlap, which makes it easier for the infant’s head to pass through the cervix and the birth canal. During this process, pressure against the baby’s head can make the head swell with fluid collecting in the area above the skull.

Caput succedaneum is more likely to occur if the delivery is prolonged, if the baby has a high birth weight, if it’s the mother’s first birth, if there is a premature rupture of membranes, or if amniotic fluid is insufficient. The use of forceps or a vacuum extractor may also increase the chances of caput succedaneum.

What Are the Signs of Caput Succedaneum?

The signs of caput succedaneum will usually be apparent right after the delivery. A spot on the top of the baby’s head under the skin will be swollen and soft. The baby may look like it has a puffy cap on top of his or her head. The swelling will usually be on the part of the head that emerged from the birth canal first. In some cases, the skin will be bruised.

Caput succedaneum may appear similar to other conditions that cause swelling in a baby’s head, including serious conditions such as hydrocephalus, skull fractures, and brain bleeds. However, caput succedaneum itself is usually not dangerous to the baby.

If Your Baby Has Caput Succedaneum, What Complications Should You Watch Out For?

In most cases of caput succedaneum, no treatment is necessary, and the condition will go away on its own. It may cause the baby discomfort, but not severe pain. The swelling is usually not harmful because it is only in the area of the scalp and does not involve any injury to the brain. Complications are rare.

However, one thing you should watch out for is whether the skin over the swollen area is bruised. Bruising can lead to several possible serious complications, including scarring, damage to hair follicles, and systemic infections. If you see any sign of infection, you should contact your doctor. Warning signs may include fever, lethargy, and extreme irritability.

Bruising can also lead to elevated bilirubin levels in the baby’s blood. Bilirubin is a substance produced in the liver that has a brown-yellow color. Excess bilirubin in the bloodstream can cause jaundice. Mild cases of jaundice are common in babies, often do not cause problems, and often go away on their own. However, if the jaundice becomes severe, proper medical treatment is needed to prevent worse complications.

Treatment for jaundice may include exposure to sunlight or blood transfusions. Left untreated, severe cases of jaundice can lead to a condition called kernicterus, which is a serious and permanent form of brain damage. Kernicterus is easy to prevent. However, the baby must be properly monitored, diagnosed, and treated.

Birth Trauma Injuries

Caput succedaneum is caused by significant pressure on a baby’s head during delivery. So, caput succedaneum, while usually not harmful in itself, can be used as a warning sign that the baby experienced a difficult birth. It’s possible the stressful birth may have caused other, more serious conditions, including brain injuries. The baby’s doctors should be alert for any signs of such injuries.

Birth Injury Malpractice

Most instances of caput succedaneum are not harmful and are not anyone’s fault. However, complications from caput succedaneum, while rare, can be extremely serious. If doctors or other medical professionals made negligent mistakes during the delivery, or if the baby was not monitored or treated correctly after birth, the medical professionals may have committed medical malpractice.

Medical professionals and hospitals have a legal duty to provide medical treatment that meets an appropriate standard of care. For a doctor, this standard is based on how a competent doctor in the same specialty would be reasonably expected to perform. While medical professionals are not perfect, they do have a duty to avoid being negligent and avoid falling below the applicable standard.

If you believe your baby may have been injured due to negligent treatment of caput succedaneum complications, the birth injury malpractice lawyers at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer would be glad to evaluate your situation.

Why File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

If your baby was harmed because of medical negligence, you may be awarded compensation for losses that both your baby and you have suffered. These may include your baby’s medical expenses, both now and for the rest of his or her expected lifetime; any necessary therapy, rehabilitation, and special education; medical devices, such as wheelchairs, if needed; wages that you lose because you need to take care of your child; and your pain and suffering.

Proving medical malpractice for complications of caput succedaneum or for any other birth injury is a complex and technical area of the law. It’s important that you choose a dedicated lawyer who has experience litigating medical malpractice claims.

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Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer has been recognized as a Tier 1 law firm for its handling of medical malpractice cases. Our trial lawyers have been fighting for the rights of our clients for the last 50 years and are dedicated to achieving justice. Fill out our contact form or call us at 1-800-535-1797, and we will be glad to arrange a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.

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