Of all the types of birth injuries a baby could sustain, the most common is a head injury. Head and brain injuries can be caused by trauma or oxygen deprivation, and they can have life-long repercussions for your child and your family.
Medical providers like OB/GYNs or certified midwives should anticipate the many types of birth injuries that may occur. They should take reasonable steps to avoid the injuries from occurring. When they fail to take proper precautions or fail to react quickly or appropriately, they may be liable for medical malpractice.
What are the most common head injuries to babies?
According to Merck Manuals, the most common head injuries involve physical trauma, hemorrhage, or hematoma.
- Swelling and bruises on the scalp. These injuries usually resolve in a few days.
- Scratches on the scalp. These injuries are normally due to improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors.
- Skull fractures. Skull fractures usually cause an indentation, and many heal quickly without treatment. However, if the baby’s skull is crushed during the delivery process, it can cause permanent damage to the facial structure or the brain.
Hematoma, or bleeding that has clotted
These head injuries cause “blood to accumulate within the brain or between the brain and the skull.” Common locations where your newborn’s brain may be bleeding are called:
- This is an accumulation of blood belowthe periosteum. This type of head injury usually resolves in weeks or months. Newborns should be checked for redness and liquid that drains. If the blood calcifies, it can leave a hard lump.
- Epidural hematoma. The bleeding for this type of head trauma is located “between the outer layer (dura mater) of tissue covering the brain (meninges) and the skull.” It can be due to a skull fracture. Newborns with this condition may suffer seizures or apnea.
- Bleeding outside of the skull bones. This type of bleeding “can lead to an accumulation of blood either above or below the thick fibrous covering (periosteum) of one of the skull bones.”
Hemorrhage, or ongoing bleeding
- Subgaleal hemorrhage. This head injury is “bleeding directly under the scalp abovethe periosteum covering the skull bones.” Unlike a cephalohematoma, the bleeding can spread causing blood loss and shock. The newborn may need a blood transfusion. This type of birth injury is often due to improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors – or may be due to a blood clotting problem.
- Intracranial hemorrhage. This is bleeding in or around the brain. It is caused, according to Merck Manual, by ruptured blood vessels. It is usually due to:
- A birth injury
- An infant illness that reduces the blood and/or oxygen the baby’s brain needs
- A blood clotting problem
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage. This type of bleeding is a common type of intracranial hemorrhage in babies, usually occurring in full-term newborns. The bleeding is located “below the innermost of the two membranes that cover the brain.” Newborns with this type of bleeding may suffer seizures, times when they stop breathing (apnea), or fatigue during the first 2/3 days of life.
- Subdural hemorrhage. This type of bleeding is located between the layers of the brain covering. Due to improved birth techniques, it is less common that it used to be. This condition can place added pressure on the brain’s surface. Seizures are one possible complication.
- Intraventricular hemorrhage. The bleeding for this type of birth injury is located in the “normal fluid-filled spaces (ventricles) in the brain.”
- Intraparenchymal hemorrhage. Here, the bleeding occurs in the brain tissue itself.
Babies with a hemorrhage may be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) so they can be properly monitored and given the extra care they need.
A quick note about non-birth trauma related hemorrhages
Both intraventricular hemorrhages and intraparenchymal hemorrhages are often due to premature births. They often happen when the brain is underdeveloped, rather than due to a birth injury. Large hemorrhages may “cause apnea or a bluish gray discoloration to the skin, or the newborn’s entire body may suddenly stop functioning normally.” Babies with small hemorrhages usually do well but babies with large hemorrhages have a poor prognosis.
Intracranial hemorrhages may be due to a premature birth. Babies who have hemophilia or other bleeding disorders also have a higher risk of brain bleeding. Most babies who have bleeding in the brain don’t have any symptoms. Possible symptoms, if they do appear, include tiredness, poor feeding, and/or seizures.
What are the causes of oxygen deprivation?
One of the more serious concerns all obstetricians and birth doctors should anticipate when it comes to head injuries are brain injuries. Brain injuries are often due to a failure of the brain to get enough oxygen. A baby’s brain may not get enough oxygen or blood due to physical trauma or undiagnosed conditions, the most common of which are:
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
- Undiagnosed infections
- Trauma during the delivery
Brain injuries can cause:
- Cerebral palsy
- Infant Brain Ischemia
- Delays in development
Other types of common birth injuries
Birth injuries that may occur other than or in addition to head injuries are:
- Brachial plexus injury
- Broken bones
- Shoulder dystocia
- Spinal cord damage
At Bailey & Greer, PLLC, our Memphis birth injury lawyers understand how devastating it is to learn that your child suffered because of the negligence of a medical provider. We also understand that head trauma before, during, and after birth can have a life-long effect on your child and your family. If your newborn was hurt, we are here to help. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys in Memphis or Jackson, call us at 901-475-7434 or use our contact form.
As founder of Bailey & Greer, R. Sadler Bailey has battled his fair share of insurance giants and wrongdoers and has achieved numerous multimillion-dollar results for the victims of catastrophic injuries and their families. What’s more, he has been involved in more than 40 appellate court decisions affecting Tennessee personal injury law, including many landmark appearances before the Tennessee Supreme Court.
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