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Infant skull fracture causes include the use of instruments and excessive force during labor and delivery. Other possible causes are pressures from inside the womb, more likely if the baby is large or labor is long and difficult, and trauma caused by mishandling or abusing an infant.
The Infant Skull
Babies are born with skulls that are still soft and not yet stitched together completely. This flexibility in the skull allows babies to fit through the birth canal with less risk of damage to the bone but also allows for growth as the child ages.
The infant skull consists of several plates held together by sutures. The sutures are fibrous and flexible, allowing the plates to move and the skull to expand with growth.
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Although an infant’s soft skull helps it come through vaginal delivery with a lower risk of harm and injury, it is still vulnerable. Infants are more susceptible to fracture and resulting damage to the brain than the skull of an older child or an adult.
Fractures to the skull may be one of several types. A linear fracture is a simple split in the bone, but it does not lead to movement between the plates of the skull. A depressed skull fracture occurs with an injury that causes an indentation in the skull.
This can potentially cause serious injury to the brain. A diastatic fracture is a break along a suture, which can cause injury as a child’s brain grows, and the skull and the fracture expand.
Damage from Instruments
The most common cause of infant skull fractures is pressure from instruments used during childbirth. Doctors and others may use forceps or vacuum extractors to aid in delivering a baby.
A doctor may use forceps to grip the baby’s head and pull it from the womb. When used with too much force, this can crush or break the skull.
A vacuum extractor may have the same impact, although it pulls on the baby by suction. Either kind of force, when used excessively, can fracture the skull.
Natural Infant Skull Fracture Causes
Instruments are overwhelmingly the leading cause of fractures to infant skulls. These are often considered negligent or malpractice, even if the doctor was trying to help. On the other hand, the skull can fracture naturally, with or without the use of instruments.
Delivery and birth are fraught with risks despite modern advances in obstetrics. The physical pressure that an infant is under during labor and delivery can be intense.
If the head of the baby is caught on the mother’s pelvis or gets stuck in the birth canal, that natural pressure may cause a skull fracture, although it is not common.
Long and complicated labor is a common risk factor for an infant skull fracture. If labor is difficult, it is more likely that the doctor or other medical practitioners will use instruments. Using instruments automatically increases the risk that a baby will suffer a fracture.
Even if the doctor is not using instruments, they may feel pressured to get the baby delivered as soon as possible when there are complications.
For instance, if the doctor believes the baby is asphyxiating, they must act quickly. This rushed and forced delivery may lead to a skull fracture.
Unusual Presentation and Birth Weight
Specific complications of labor and delivery can also cause a skull fracture or lead to the conditions in which a doctor may use instruments that can cause fractures.
For instance, if the baby is breech, with its bottom or legs emerging from the birth canal first, or if the baby is unusually large, labor is more complicated. Both the breech position and a large head can put more pressure on a baby’s skull and increase the risk of a fracture.
Spontaneous Skull Fractures
Although rare, a skull fracture may occur during what seems to be a normal delivery in which the use of instruments is not required. One case study described a woman who had a normal, uncomplicated delivery. She delivered a baby that, after two hours, appeared to be listless.
The examination found that the baby had a hematoma or a pooling of blood in a part of the brain caused by a minor linear fracture in the skull. The baby died a few days later from complications. Doctors could not determine the cause of the fracture.
Skull Fractures after Delivery
Newborn babies are very delicate and vulnerable to injury. If they are mishandled or even abused, injuries are likely, including skull fractures.
A nurse or other hospital worker may accidentally drop a baby, which can cause severe skull damage. Abuse, such as shaking or striking a crying baby, can also cause a skull fracture.
If you have a baby born with a skull fracture or that received a skull fracture in the hospital after birth, you have legal options to seek justice and compensation for your child. Infant skull fracture causes vary but often result from inappropriate use of instruments during delivery.
If your doctor or other caregiver fractured your infant’s skull in such a way that could have been prevented, you might have a solid case to sue and recover monetary damages.
The consequences for your baby with a skull fracture may range from mild to severe. Your baby may have permanent brain damage and other complications that will affect her for the rest of their life. They will need extra care and treatment and possibly even surgery to correct the damage.
Not many families can afford the extensive care needed for a disabled child, but if you can make a case that your caregivers were negligent, you may be able to win enough money to provide the best care. Let an experienced lawyer in medical malpractice and birth injuries help you make a case and fight the hospital that harmed your baby.
- Traumatic brain injury in infants and toddlers, 0–3 years old. (15, August). PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168813/
- Pediatric Skull Fractures - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. (2019, May 2). National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482218/
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, September 24). Head Injury In Children. Harvard Health.
Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/head-injury-in-children-a-to-z
- Spontaneous Fetal Skull Fracture in an Apparently Uncomplicated Vaginal Delivery. (2014, September 8). Scholarly Open Access Peer Reviewed Medical Science Journals | Austin Publishing Group.
Retrieved from: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Spontaneous-Fetal-Skull-Fracture-in-an-Apparently-Acevedo-Ojeda/f7696ece370d973a5fb48ddaea2b25110994cf45