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Infant Skull Fractures

Illinois brain injury lawyer skull fracture

Addressing the Effects of Brain Trauma During Delivery - Chicago Birth Injury Attorney

During birth, extreme care should be taken to avoid causing brain injuries to a child. Unfortunately, a wide variety of complications may occur during labor and delivery, and these may result in fractures of the bones in a child's skull, which can severely damage the brain.

Causes of Skull Fractures

A child's body is put under a great deal of physical pressure during the delivery process. Some of the issues that may occur that can result in skull fractures include:

  • Prolonged labor - If difficulties during delivery lead to the child being in the birth canal for longer than normal, this can put excessive pressure on a child's head that damages the bones in the skull and causes a brain injury.
  • Abnormal presentation - Children are typically delivered head-first while facing the mother's back. If they are in a different position, such as facing the mother's front or with the face turned toward the birth canal, this can put stress on the child's head that may lead to skull fractures. If a child is in the breech position (feet-first), a Cesarean delivery will typically be performed.
  • Cephalopelvic disproportion - Skull fractures and brain trauma may occur if the child's head is too large to fit through the birth canal safely. A C-section may be necessary to avoid harm to the child during a vaginal birth.
  • Use of instruments - If a baby becomes stuck in the birth canal, it may be at risk of asphyxia, and a doctor may use instruments such as forceps or vacuum extractors to assist in delivering the child. However, the improper use of these devices can lead to skull fractures and brain damage.
  • Trauma – If a physician is unnecessarily rough with an infant's head or uses excess force or traction during delivery, damage to the skull may result.

Types of Skull Fractures

The bones in a child's skull can break in multiple ways, including:

  • Linear fractures - These occur when a bone breaks but remains in the same position. These fractures may heal on their own without causing brain damage, although they can also cause bleeding around the brain.
  • Depressed fractures - This occurs when the bones of the skull are pushed inward. This can put pressure on the brain and cause serious damage to brain tissue.
  • Diastatic fractures - These breaks occur along or across the sutures between the bones of the skull. As the skull grows, these fractures can enlarge, leaving gaps through which brain tissue can bulge and become damaged. The membranes of the brain may also be torn when these types of fractures occur.

Effects of Skull Fractures

A fetus' skull is soft and pliable so that it can accommodate normal delivery forces. It is unusual for an infant's skull to be broken without trauma or excessive force. Fractures of the skull during delivery can cause severe brain damage. This can lead to conditions such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) or cystic encephalomalacia. Even a seemingly minor skull fracture can lead to bleeding in or around the brain, which can cut off blood flow and oxygen to the brain and cause a neonatal stroke. Any form of damage to a child's brain can have long-term effects, including developmental disorders such as Cerebral Palsy.

Doctors and nurses should closely monitor a newborn child for the signs and symptoms of skull fractures. In some cases, X-rays or CT scans may be necessary to examine a child's skull and determine whether any brain damage has occurred. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct a fracture or relieve pressure on the brain.

In many cases, skull fractures which occur during birth can be managed with minimal harm to a child. However, if fractures are not dealt with properly, or if they have resulted in trauma to the brain, a child may experience serious, long-term effects to their health and well-being. In these cases, parents should take steps to understand how to provide the care their child needs. To learn more about your options in these types of cases, contact the Birth Injury Law Alliance by calling 312-945-1300. We provide free consultations and case evaluations.

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