What are long-term effects of brain bleeds?

Infant brain hemorrhages (brain bleeds) encompass a variety of conditions with differing degrees of risk. Certain types of brain bleeds are very small and may not have long-term effects. However, if a brain bleed is severe and/or poorly managed, permanent damage can occur to the brain and cause long-term effects on important areas related to cognition, motor skills, and memory. A common complication of infant brain bleeds is posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus, or fluid build up in the brain. Hydrocephalus, in turn, has many potential long-term effects of its own.

Posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus

Posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus (PHH), sometimes inaccurately called “water on the brain,” is a condition in which too much cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the cerebral ventricles and/or subarachnoid spaces as the result of a hemorrhage. This condition can cause many potential long-term effects of its own, or coincide with other complications, such as subarachnoid hemorrhages.


PHH can be detected through brain imaging before the obvious clinical signs occur, such as increasing head circumference. It is important to catch PHH early because as the ventricles continue to enlarge, they put pressure on nearby brain tissue, potentially causing permanent brain damage. The long-term effects of neonatal brain damage depends on how severe the damage is and how it is handled. Poor treatment and recovery can lead to serious and life-long disabilities.  

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Types of damage

PHH can be especially damaging to white matter in the brain. White matter is important because of its role in regulating electrical signaling between nervous system cells. It is responsible for sending information from the brain to the spinal cord and the rest of the body. Without enough white matter in their developing brains, children may lack control of their basic bodily functions . Damage to certain areas of white matter, as seen in patients with periventricular leukomalacia, commonly causes such complications. PHH can also negatively affect the cerebral cortex, which is crucial to memory, attention, thought, language, and consciousness. PHH and its ensuing complications can lead to a variety of issues, including:

Brain bleeds and birth trauma

The leading causes of infant brain bleeds is hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a type of injury resulting from a traumatic birth. HIE decreases the amount of oxygenated blood in certain areas, sometimes causing brain damage and hemorrhage. Brain bleeds can also result from the use of tools like forceps or vacuum extractors, in cases where the baby gets stuck in the birth canal. This can also cause trauma to the head and brain and result in hemorrhage.

Infant brain bleeds from medical malpractice

A number of medical mistakes and deviations from standards of care can cause brain bleeds in babies. If you suspect that your loved one suffered a brain bleed as the result of medical malpractice, reach out to the birth injury attorneys at ABC Law Centers: Birth Injury Lawyers for a free case review. Our attorneys exclusively handle birth trauma cases and have specifically handled cases involving brain hemorrhages from medical malpractice. Please be aware that there is a limited period of time in which families can pursue birth injury cases—you may contact our legal team to determine if your loved one’s statute of limitations has expired.

The information presented above is intended only to be a general educational resource. It is not intended to be (and should not be interpreted as) medical advice. If you have questions about infant brain hemorrhages or posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus, please consult with a medical professional.

Related Resources


  1. Periventricular/Intraventricular Hemorrhage (PVH/IVH) in the Premature Infant
  2. Management and complications of intraventricular hemorrhage in the newborn
  3. Intraventricular hemorrhage in term neonates with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy: a comparison study between neonates treated with and without hypothermia