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An infant skull fracture that occurs during delivery has the potential to damage the sensitive young brain and cause injuries ranging from mild to severe. These injuries could be temporary but may also cause permanent disabilities. For most babies, the prognosis is good, and the injury does not cause lasting damage.
What Are Infant Skull Fractures?
A skull fracture is any break in the skull, which can occur during childbirth. The newborn skull is not fully formed and is, therefore, more susceptible to injury than the skull in a child or adult.
The young skull consists of plates loosely held together by sutures. This gives it the flexibility to come through the narrow space of the birth canal.
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In spite of this flexibility, the newborn skull may still be fractured in several ways:
- A linear fracture is a simple break that does not allow the bone to move up or down or side to side.
- A depressed skull fracture occurs when the break causes the skull to sink.
- A diastatic fracture occurs along a suture. This has the potential to be serious because the fractures are not easy to detect and are likely to grow larger as the baby’s brain grows, causing damage to the brain.
What Causes Infant Skull Fractures?
An infant’s skull may fracture spontaneously or with no recognizable cause during childbirth in very rare cases. More commonly, these injuries are caused by the inappropriate use of instruments like forceps and vacuum extractors.
Doctors mostly use these instruments during difficult labors or when complications, like a breech position, are present. For this reason, a difficult or complicated labor is a risk factor for infant skull fractures.
The instruments that cause infant skull fractures most often do so when the doctor uses them with too much force. Squeezing the baby’s head with forceps or misusing the vacuum extractor can cause breaks in the skull.
A doctor not ordering a Cesarean section when there are complications can be considered malpractice if the baby becomes injured as a result.
What Is the Infant Skull Fracture Prognosis?
The prognosis is positive for most infants suffering a skull fracture caused by labor and delivery. In most cases, there are no lasting or long-term injuries or complications.
The skull will likely heal on its own and cause no further problems. In some cases, even if there is damage that requires treatment, that treatment will help the skull and brain heal.
In other instances, the skull fracture may cause more serious complications, and the prognosis for the baby is not as favorable. A child with a skull fracture that occurred during birth could end up with a brain injury, a growing skull fracture, a hemorrhage, or bleeding on the brain.
This can result in a long-term disability that includes neurological damage, developmental delays, cognitive impairment, or paralysis.
Grow Skull Fracture
One potential complication of a birth injury skull fracture is the development of a growing skull fracture, often referred to as GSF. This is a rare complication. The fracture continues to grow over time as the growth of the brain puts pressure on it.
A GSF most often occurs when the skull fracture is not diagnosed immediately. It may take several months to recognize symptoms and get a diagnosis.
A GSF is treatable, usually with surgery. The earlier this complication is recognized and treated, the better the outlook is for the child. This type of growing fracture is life-threatening. If it is not found and treated, a baby could suffer serious brain damage, have seizures, go into a coma, and ultimately die.
When an infant skull fracture case includes a brain hemorrhage, it means bleeding in the brain. This most often occurs when the fracture is a depressed fracture.
In other words, the skull has sunken down towards the brain. The resulting bleeding can cut off oxygen to parts of the brain or put pressure on the area of the brain affected.
The prognosis for most cases of a skull fracture causing bleeding are good. Swift treatment, which involves draining the blood to relieve pressure, is usually enough to ensure there is no lasting damage.
However, if the bleeding is severe, if it is not treated right away, or not diagnosed soon enough, the prognosis may be lasting brain damage.
Long Term Disability
In severe but rare cases, the infant skull fracture prognosis is a permanent disability. When the fracture causes serious injury to the brain or the fracture goes unnoticed and the damage untreated for too long, the result can be serious brain damage.
This may result in cognitive impairments, developmental delays, paralysis, nerve damage, and other consequences.
Lasting damage from an infant skull fracture is a terrible prognosis for any parent to receive. To know your child will always live with the complications from this injury is devastating. You may want to get justice and seek compensation for your child by filing a lawsuit over medical malpractice.
If you do, make sure you work with a lawyer experienced in birth injury cases to give you and your child the best chance of getting the money you need to cope with infant skull fracture complications.
An infant’s brain damage prognosis depends on individual factors: the severity of the damage, when it’s diagnosed, how it is treated, and more.
Luckily, most cases of infant brain damage incurred during childbirth are mild, and the prognosis is good.
The prognosis is less favorable for infants who suffer moderate to severe damage. These children may be living with the complications of brain damage indefinitely, and in some cases, it can be fatal.
- Pediatric Skull Fractures - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. (2019, May 2). National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482218/
- Head Injury in Children. (n.d.). Johns Hopkins Medicine, based in Baltimore, Maryland.
Retrieved from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/head-injury-in-children
- Liu XS , et al. (n.d.). Growing skull fracture stages and treatment strategy. - PubMed - NCBI. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22656261
- Intraventricular hemorrhage of the newborn : MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). MedlinePlus - Health Information from the National Library of Medicine.
Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007301.htm