Caput Succedaneum

Newborn infant baby boy receiving phototherapy for jaundice at the hospital because of Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum is the clinical term for infant head malformation. This condition refers to the swelling that forms around an infant’s skull right after a difficult delivery, giving the baby a “conehead” appearance.

What Causes the Scalp to Swell?

During childbirth, especially when the baby comes out head-first, any extra pressure that is exerted on a baby’s head could damage the scalp. This pressure could be a result of prolonged labor, vacuum extractor or forceps assistance, or premature rupture of membranes (PROM).

The malformation on an infant’s scalp looks like a lump or bump on the head. Under normal circumstances, caput succedaneum is harmless. It would not indicate damage to the brain or the bones of the cranium. However, in some cases, it could lead to more serious issues.

In most babies, the swelling typically disappears within a few days without medical intervention. What doctors have to look out for is bruising, which could be a sign of other complications such as jaundice, alopecia (baldness), or infection.

When caput succedaneum is accompanied by other evidence of birth trauma such as intracranial bleeding, it can cause long-term damage.

In this article, you will learn the causes, symptoms, and treatment of caput succedaneum, as well as legal remedies that are available to you in the event of a birth trauma injury.  You should always talk to a dedicated lawyer if you have any questions.

Causes of Caput Succedaneum

A dilated cervix or vaginal wall can exert prolonged pressure on a baby’s head and cause swelling, puffiness, and bruising. When a woman goes through difficult labor with a lot of pushing, caput succedaneum is likely to occur. Another cause of swelling is the use of vacuum suction or forceps during delivery.

In some cases, the amniotic membranes rupture early in labor and leave very little fluid in the sac. When this happens, the mother’s pelvic bones tend to add pressure on the baby’s head. An ultrasound can be detected scalp swelling that occurs pre-labor.

Risk Factors of Caput Succedaneum

In addition to excessive pressure on the baby’s head, pregnancy complications are also likely to cause caput succedaneum. These include:

  • Oligohydramnios (insufficient amniotic fluid)
  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Primiparous mother (first time giving birth)

Symptoms of Caput Succedaneum

Medical practitioners are able to recognize symptoms of caput succedaneum immediately after delivery. It has a soft swelling of the scalp, located primarily on the part of the head that came out first. Sometimes the lump does extend to the midline of the scalp.

The malformation measures around 1-2 centimeters thick, with signs of bruising or changes to the color of the skin. Once the swelling goes down, the baby’s head is noticeably pointed due to the pressure on the skull. This condition is called molding and should disappear over time.

Treatment of Caput Succedaneum

As mentioned earlier, the lump on the baby’s head should clear up on its own in the next few days. It is not necessary to drain fluid from the scalp. Doing this might even lead to graver issues such as infection.

Potential complications of Caput Succedaneum

While no treatment is needed in most cases, caput succedaneum could lead to potential complications. If there is bruising involved, it could indicate jaundice or elevated bilirubin in the blood.

Mild jaundice is not life-threatening and often resolves itself within two to three weeks. However, in cases where jaundice requires treatment, specialists may recommend phototherapy or blood transfusions.

Severe jaundice, on the other hand, should not be left untreated. If undiagnosed or improperly managed, severe cases of jaundice could result in permanent forms of brain damage such as cerebral palsy, hearing impairments, and other lifelong disabilities.

If your baby develops jaundice and it does not clear up within several weeks, contact your pediatrician right away.

Outlook of Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum has no long-term adverse effects. The swelling should go down within a few days, with the scalp returning to normal in several weeks.

If your baby develops a pointed cone-shaped lump after delivery, the doctor will be able to diagnose and monitor their condition to make sure there are no lasting effects.

Legal Help for Babies with Birth Trauma

Birth trauma is a difficult field to navigate due to the complex nature of medical records and malpractice laws. Fortunately, our expert attorneys at The Clark Law Office have decades of experience representing kids with birth trauma, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy, and other disabilities. If you are looking for sound legal advice from a birth injury lawyer, book an appointment today.


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