San Antonio Birth Injury Lawyers
Infant Skull Fractures
Most women look back on the birth of their child with profound joy. Other women remember their birth as a traumatic event, maybe because their birth was very long and difficult. Long and difficult births can lead to many complications for both mother and baby. One of the many complications associated with difficult births – especially those that involve forceps and vacuum extractors – are infant skull fractures. Baby’s skulls are very soft and malleable compared to adult skulls. This is so they can squeeze through the birth canal. During long, difficult births, the malleability of their skulls can lead to an increased risk of fractures and brain damage, especially when medical malpractice is at play.
If your baby has suffered a skull fracture and/or brain damage due to your doctor’s negligence, you may have grounds to file a birth injury claim. Call 210-366-4949 to schedule a free consultation with the legal team at Janicek Law today.
What Are Infant Skull Fractures?
An infant skull fracture occurs when one of the delicate skull bones cracks, usually during labor and delivery. An infant skull is very soft and malleable so that it can fit through the birth canal. Occasionally, a violent vaginal birth can lead to head trauma, such as a skull fracture or even a traumatic brain injury.
Infant Skull Anatomy
Before we discuss how types of skull fractures can happen during birth, it’s crucial to understand infant skull anatomy. An infant’s skull is made up of these bones:
- Two frontal bones
- Two parietal bones
- One occipital bone
These skull bones can move and overlap as the baby squeezes through the birth canal. Infant skull bones are connected through sutures, which are basically fibrous joints. The flexibility of these sutures provide room for the brain to grow throughout childhood.
Babies also have soft spots on their heads called fontanelles. This is where the sutures intersect. There are two main fontanelles:
- Anterior Fontanelle: This soft spot is at the top of the head. The two frontal and parietal skull bones meet here. The anterior fontanelle will exist on the baby’s head for 6 months to 2 years.
- Posterior Fontanelle: This soft spot is at the back of the baby’s head where the parietal bones and the occipital bone come together.
Fontanelle appearance can help determine whether your baby is healthy or not. For example, a fontanelle that caves in indicates dehydration. A fontanelle that bulges out indicates increased intracranial pressure. Both of these situations require immediate medical intervention.
How Do Infant Skull Fractures Happen During Birth?
Newborn skull fractures generally happen due to excessive force during birth. Common causes include:
- A long, difficult vaginal delivery
- Vacuum extractors
Births that require forceps or vacuum extractors are called instrumental births. These tools can help doctors literally pull babies out of the birth canal. Because these tools come with a high risk of intracranial injury, doctors are using them less and less often. Most doctors now resort to c-section if a vaginal birth is long, difficult, or unsuccessful.
How Common Are Infant Skull Fractures During Birth?
Newborn head injuries during birth are fairly rare, but they do happen. According to a 2022 study, infant skull fractures occur at a rate of 2 to 3.7 per 100,000 births.
Skull fractures are incredibly common injuries during instrumental births. The same study states that 46% of infant skull fractures that occur during birth are caused by instruments such as forceps and vacuum extraction.
Types of Skull Fractures
There are multiple types of pediatric skull fractures including:
- Depressed Skull Fractures are also called “ping pong fractures.” A depressed skull fracture occurs when there is a noticeable indentation in the head which can put pressure on the brain. In severe cases, this type of fracture can lead to a traumatic brain injury.
- Diastatic Skull Fractures occur along the suture lines between the skull bones. Sutures expand as the baby’s head and brain grows. A diastatic skull fracture can therefore lead to something called a “growing skull fracture,” which means the fracture grows with the brain. Again, this type of fracture can lead to a severe brain injury if not handled properly by medical professionals.
- Linear Skull Fractures are the most common type of skull fracture. A linear skull fracture is also the least serious out of all the other fractures. A linear fracture occurs when one of the skull bones crack during birth. This crack doesn’t make the entire bone plate move out of place, which would be infinitely more dangerous. Linear fractures also carry a risk of bleeding under the skull.
Infant Skull Fracture Symptoms
The most common symptoms of infant skull fractures are:
- Misshapen appearance of the head
- Pale skin
- Neurological problems
- Loss of consciousness
- A lump on the head
- Bruising on the head
- Bleeding underneath the skull
- Lack of energy
- Excessive crying
- Head or brain swelling
Doctors must be able to notice the symptoms of a head injury immediately after birth and take action. If not, the baby could suffer lifelong neurological deficits and/or death.
How Are Newborn Skull Fractures Diagnosed?
Doctors should first look for the symptoms listed above. If the baby is exhibiting one or more symptoms, the doctor will move onto imaging tests like:
- CT scan
Imaging tests like X-rays and CT scans are the most common tests used to diagnose head injuries, but they can be dangerous for newborns because of the radiation. Additionally, patients have to sit still during these tests in order to get clear, accurate pictures. Babies, especially injured babies, tend to squirm and cry a lot. This means that the baby would also need to be sedated, which comes with its own set of health risks. So an MRI or an ultrasound may be the safest option for diagnosing infant head injuries.
Treatment for Infant Skull Fractures
Treatment options heavily depend on the type of skull fracture. For example, minor injuries such as linear fractures may not require treatment because there is very little threat of brain damage. In cases like this, the baby should just remain under close observation as its skull heals over time.
Meanwhile, major skull fractures – like depressed and diastatic fractures – may need surgical intervention in order to minimize brain damage. During surgery, doctors may fix the skull fracture, reduce swelling, and drain any built-up fluid. Infant head injuries that require surgery carry a higher risk of long-term brain damage and disability. Even if the doctor fixes the immediate damage, it’s very likely that the baby suffers from permanent neurological deficits for the rest of its life.
Can You Sue for Infant Skull Fractures?
Yes, you can sue for any kind of infant head injury, especially if the injury was caused by a doctor’s negligence.
As previously stated, nearly half of newborn skull fractures that occur during birth are caused by excessive force from vacuum extractors and forceps. As science and medicine becomes more advanced, more and more doctors are realizing that these birthing methods carry more risks than benefits. In many cases, it’s safer for mother and baby to go through a c-section than instrumental births.
If you believe that your baby was injured due to an unnecessary instrumental birth, you have grounds to sue your doctor for damages. The San Antonio birth injury lawyers at Janicek Law have what it takes to investigate the details of your birth injury case and determine whether your baby’s head injury was caused by medical malpractice. From there, we can fight for justice and a fair settlement on your behalf.
Damages for Birth Injuries
Our San Antonio birth injury lawyers can help you recover financial compensation for the following types of damages:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future rehabilitative bills
- Expenses associated with necessary medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and braces, if the baby suffers permanent brain damage
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity if the baby suffers a permanent disability and therefore cannot work in the future
- Emotional distress
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental health counseling costs
- Permanent scarring, disfigurement, and/or disability
- Loss of enjoyment of life