Damage to the brain is one of the most devastating forms of birth injury a newborn can suffer. Brain injury in newborns may occur in several ways, they can also be caused by trauma such as cranial compression.
If your child suffered a birth injury due to cranial compression, or other trauma during childbirth, you may be entitled to compensation. Our proven birth injury lawyers at The Becker Law Firm can review your case and determine how we can help.
Why Choose The Becker Law Firm?
- Our firm has recovered hundreds of millions in verdicts and settlements.
- We’ve successfully handled cranial compression cases, including a $11.35M verdict secured by Attorneys Mike Becker and David Skall.
- Our attorneys are recognized nationally in birth injury and medical malpractice.
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What Is Cranial (Cerebral) Compression?
Cranial compression is a type of traumatic brain injury sometimes referred to as CCIE (cranial compression ischemic encephalopathy). This means there was excessive pressure on the outside of the fetal head resulting in a decreased blood supply to the fetal brain.
While a certain amount of cerebral compression during birth as a baby passes through the birth canal is normal, too much pressure on the baby’s head can cause irreparable brain damage from reduced blood flow and oxygenation in the brain. Cerebral compression injuries can occur without obvious visible damage to the baby. Sometimes signs of compression injuries, such as excessive head molding, cephalohematoma, caput, and bruising may be present.
In the newborn period, fetuses who sustain a cranial compression injury often times will not show signs of generalized asphyxia or metabolic acidosis but will still have neurologic abnormalities in the early days of life.
What Is Head Molding?
Head molding is the term used to describe an abnormal head shape that may result from pressure on the baby’s head during childbirth. As with cerebral compressions, some head molding is common and often harmless; head molding in and of itself does not necessarily mean there is a brain injury.
However, head molding can increase pressure inside the skull and damage the baby’s brain. Excessive head molding, therefore, could indicate more serious trauma and possible infant brain damage.
What is Cephalohematoma?
A cephalohematoma is an accumulation of blood in the area between the skull and the periosteum (the membrane that covers the skull) caused by broken blood vessels on the fetal head, typically resulting from a difficult or prolonged birth. A cephalohematoma may be associated with the use of forceps or vacuum-extractors during delivery.
What is Caput?
A caput succedaneum is a swelling around the infant’s skull that usually forms after a difficult or prolonged delivery, especially one involving the use of forceps or vacuum-extractors. A caput will typically disappear on its own within a few days. Sometimes a caput is accompanied with bruising.
What Are Causes of Excessive Cranial Compression?
There are several possible causes of excessive cranial compression, including:
- Difficult, prolonged, or stalled labor
- Excessively strong, prolonged, or frequent contractions (uterine hyperstimulation / uterine tachysystole, sometimes caused by improper use of labor-inducing drugs such as Pitocin or Cytotec)
- Abnormal fetal position (e.g. occiput posterior presentation or OP)
- Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors
- Variance in size of baby’s head and mother’s pelvis (cephalopelvic disproportion or CPD)
- Impingement of the fetal head upon on the mother’s pelvis compounded by maternal pushing
- Persistent high resting pressures of the uterus
How Can Excessively Strong Contractions Cause Cranial Compression?
During labor, the mother’s uterine muscles engage in a pattern of contraction and relaxation to push the baby through the birth canal. When the uterine muscles contract, the placenta and fetus receive less oxygen. When the muscles relax, oxygen to the baby returns to normal.
Under normal circumstances, a baby generally has the ability to compensate for increased pressure in the uterine cavity by raising the arterial pressure above the pressure outside of the skull to maintain their blood flow. But there are limits to this ability, and once the limit is reached, the fetus cannot compensate, and excessive pressures will cause an impairment of blood flow to the brain as well as to and from the brain. If this happens, the baby may suffer brain damage.
Often, excessively strong contractions are caused by the improper use of labor-inducing drugs, such as Pitocin (a synthetic form of the natural hormone oxytocin) and Cytotec. Doctors, nurses, and other health care providers who oversee labor and delivery have a duty to ensure these drugs are used appropriately.
They also have a duty to monitor both the mother and the baby (such as through the use of a fetal heart rate monitor) to identify signs of fetal distress and oxygen deprivation and to take appropriate measures to respond to distress and reduce risks of brain damage to the baby. For example, early decelerations of the baby’s heart rate, as indicated on electronic fetal monitoring strips, usually indicate compression of the baby’s head during a contraction.
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Birth injury cases are highly fact-specific, which is why our firm encourages parents and families to reach out to us for a personalized case evaluation. Based in Cleveland, The Becker Law Firm provides free and confidential case evaluations to victims and families across Ohio and beyond. Contact us to speak with a lawyer.