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What is Caput Succedaneum and Cephalohematoma?

By: Anapol Weiss

Caput succedaneum and cephalohematoma are both acute trauma injuries that occur to an infant’s head typically during the birthing process. Both of these conditions require a healthcare professional’s post-birth checkups and extended observation to ensure a larger issue hasn’t occurred. An infant is at a higher risk of developing caput succedaneum or cephalohematoma if there were medical devices used for extraction such as vacuums or forceps. Additionally, both are caused by extensive pressure on the infant’s head which leads to either swelling or blood pooling.

If you believe your infants head trauma was the result of a doctors negligence during delivery, you may have grounds for compensation. Speak to a Philadelphia birth injury lawyer today for more information.

Caput Succedaneum

Caput Succedaneum is the swelling of an infant’s scalp during pregnancy or shortly after birth. The membrane and amniotic fluid in the mother’s womb keep the infant’s head supported and safe. Caput Succedaneum occurs when there is not enough amniotic fluid or the membrane bursts leaving the infant’s head unsupported. The baby’s head can then push up against the internal walls of the mother, often resulting in bruising and swelling.

Typically, an infant who has caput succedaneum will need to be observed by a medical professional to ensure further issues haven’t occurred. Usually, the swelling and bruising of the scalp will go down within a few days. Caput succedaneum usually takes place if the baby is breached, the labor is incredibly long, or if the baby had to be extracted using a vacuum or forceps by the doctor.

This condition is often harmless and occurs in 10% of births utilizing medical equipment extraction methods. However, the most dangerous part of this condition is that the infant is more susceptible to severe infant jaundice due to the swelling and bruising. Jaundice is when the infant’s skin turns yellow due to the lack of bilirubin in the blood. If the infant develops jaundice and it doesn’t clear with within a few weeks, it’s recommended to see a doctor to perform blood tests to determine the underlying cause. If jaundice is left untreated and the case is severe, the infant can develop brain damage which can then lead to cerebral palsy or hearing loss.


Cephalohematoma is when an infant has bleeding under their scalp. Typically, this is a sign of a long and strenuous labor where excessive pressure was placed on the infant’s head leading to acute trauma. The blood pooling comes from blood vessels in the head breaking due to the stress on the baby’s head. The pooling of blood is contained between the skull and periosteum, or the membrane that encapsulates the bones in the infant’s head.

A cephalohematoma is more prevalent in larger babies and occurs most frequently when the delivery takes longer than usual. This head trauma can also occur if forceps or a vacuum were used improperly or aggressively on the infant’s head. As with caput succedaneum, cephalohematoma requires observation after identification. The healthcare professional should check the infant’s health status and if a larger issue is in question, the doctor can order CT scans and MRIs to obtain brain images. Usually, the blood will clot and absorb within a few weeks leaving the infant with a bump on their head until completely resolved.

Was Negligence Involved?

If the infant was diagnosed with caput succedaneum or cephalohematoma which then resulted in a serious injury, medical negligence may be to blame. There are a few signs of negligence to beware of that could dramatically raise the risk of injuring an infant.

  • Failure to identify and treat a membrane breakage during pregnancy

  • Failure to intervene in a long and strenuous delivery

  • Using incredible force during infant extraction

  • Failure to diagnose and treat infant jaundice that then became worse

All of these mishaps listed above are preventable and should have been identified and treated had the healthcare professional provided their patient with skilled and competent care. For more information, speak to a medical malpractice lawyer at Anapol Weiss today.