Cephalohematoma vs. Caput Succedaneum

By The Beasley Firm

Understanding Birth Injuries to the Head

While cephalohematoma and caput succedaneum are both birth injuries to a baby’s head, each has its own set of causes and symptoms. In most cases, cephalohematoma and caput succedaneum are not severe or life-threatening, however, there are some risks and complications you should know.

What is Cephalohematoma?

Cephalohematoma is an accumulation of blood under the scalp. Blood vessels can be damaged during the birth process as a result of trauma. Specifically relating to cephalohematoma, small blood vessels crossing the periosteum (the membrane that covers the skull bones) are ruptured, and blood and fluid collect between the skull and periosteum. The development of cephalohematoma is slow and may not develop for hours or days after birth.

Although rare, cephalohematoma can cause the following problems for the baby:

  • Linear skull fractures (typically heals on its own)
  • Calcification of the cephalohematoma (bone deposits that form and harden around the blood pool can cause skull deformities)
  • Infections (occurs when the fluid and blood from the cephalohematoma become infected)
  • Anemia (having cephalohematoma increases the risk)

Causes of Cephalohematoma

The rupturing of blood vessels is due to pressure on the baby’s head during the birthing process. The following factors can increase pressure on a baby’s head and cause cephalohematoma:

  • Delivery by use of forceps
  • Delivery by use of vacuum extraction
  • Prolonged labor
  • Fetal macrosomia (a baby who is much larger than average)
  • Weak uterine contractions
  • Abnormal fetal position
  • Multiple fetuses

Symptoms of Cephalohematoma

Cephalohematoma doesn’t typically come with obvious symptoms, and it may be necessary to consider cephalohematoma if the baby has:

  • Bruising on the newborn baby’s skull
  • Anemia or low red blood cell counts
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • An infection

What is Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum is subcutaneous (under the skin) swelling or edema of the scalp following vaginal delivery. Caput succedaneum is not uncommon and can occur through normal pressure and compression of the baby’s head as it passes through the birth canal.

While rare, caput succedaneum could cause the following problems for a baby:

  • Bruising of the skin
  • Jaundice
  • Skin Necrosis (death of cells)
  • Scarring
  • Alopecia (loss of hair)
  • Systemic infections (infections that spread through the body’s system)

Causes of Caput Succedaneum

Caput Succedaneum is caused by prolonged pressure from the cervix or vaginal wall on the baby’s head. The following are other factors that can increase pressure on a baby’s head and cause caput succedaneum:

  • Delivery by use of forceps
  • Delivery by use of vacuum extraction
  • Prolonged labor
  • Rupture of membranes
  • Low amniotic fluid levels
  • Sporadic contractions (also known as Braxton-Hicks contractions)
  • Abnormal fetal position

Symptoms of Caput Succedaneum

Symptoms of caput succedaneum may include:

  • Puffiness or swelling of the scalp
  • Bruising of the scalp (in some cases, facial bruising may be present)
  • Bumps on the scalp

Did Your Baby Suffer a Birth Injury? We Are Here For You.

If your child sustained a birth injury due to a medical professional’s negligence, you have the right to pursue compensation. Birth injuries can have lifelong, devastating health consequences — and often come with medical bills for treatments and therapies. The Beasley Firm, LLC has secured record-breaking settlements and verdicts on behalf of our clients, and we’re here for you, too.

Protect your child’s future health and well-being. Contact us today at (215) 866-2424 for a free consultation.