A caput succedaneum is a type of swelling around the skull, which can give an infant a “conehead” appearance. Usually, it forms after a difficult delivery, particularly one involving a prolonged labor, use of vacuum extractors or forceps, or premature rupture of membranes (PROM). Within a few days, the caput succedaneum will usually disappear without intervention. However, if bruising is involved, the infant may develop jaundice. This can lead to more serious problems. A caput succedaneum is often accompanied by other evidence of birth trauma, such as intracranial bleeding, which can also cause long-term damage.
Causes of Caput Succedaneum
A long delivery with prolonged pressure on the baby’s head can cause swelling and bruising. A caput succedaneum is more likely to form in deliveries with premature rupture of membranes (PROM). PROM occurs when the membranes of the amniotic sac and chorion rupture before labor begins (when a mother’s “water breaks” before labor starts). This increases the duration of time that an infant must withstand labor without the protection of amniotic fluid, and results in excessive pressure on the baby’s head. Oligohydramnios (insufficient amniotic fluid) can also cause caput succedaneum.
Moreover, a caput succedaneum is also more likely to form in a baby that has been delivered using birth-assisting tools such as a vacuum extractor or forceps, because these can also put excessive pressure on the fetal head.
Signs and Diagnosis of a Caput Succedaneum
A caput succedaneum is usually most obvious immediately after delivery. Medical professionals should recognize it as a swelling of the scalp. It is often 1-2 cm in depth; circumference is more variable. There may be bruising or changes to the color of the skin.
Treatment and Long-Term Outcomes
In most cases, no treatment is needed for a caput succedaneum; it will likely go away on its own. However, if there is bruising involved, this may lead to elevated bilirubin and jaundice. Jaundice is usually not a serious threat either, and in a mild form, often resolves spontaneously. Sometimes jaundice does require treatment, which may include phototherapy, blood transfusions, or addressing any underlying causes. If more intense degrees of jaundice go undiagnosed or are improperly managed, this can result in kernicterus, which is a dangerous and permanent form of brain damage. Babies with kernicterus may develop cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, and other lifelong disabilities.
Reiter & Walsh, P.C. | Michigan Birth Injury Attorneys Helping Children Since 1997
Birth injury is a difficult area of law to pursue due to the complex nature of the medical records. The award-winning birth injury attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have decades of joint experience with birth injury, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), and cerebral palsy cases. To find out if you have a case, contact our firm to speak with one of our lawyers. We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case. We give personal attention to each child and family we help, and are available 24/7 to speak with you.
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