Neonatal Subgaleal Hemorrhage - Chicago Birth Injury Attorneys

by Matthew Willens on Dec. 26, 2016

Accident & Injury Medical Malpractice Accident & Injury Accident & Injury  Personal Injury 

Summary: A Subgaleal Hemorrhage is a potentially fatal condition that can affect a newborn child.


A Subgaleal Hemorrhage is caused by the rupture of emissary veins, and is a potentially fatal condition that can affect a newborn child. It is a type of intracranial hemorrhage that causes blood to accumulate between the skull and the scalp, the space known as subgaleal space and is among the most dangerous brain hemorrhages, because about half of the baby’s blood can fill this space.

Causes of Subgaleal Hemorrhage

Vacuum extractors are used in many cases to speed up a difficult delivery, however, improper use can cause serious complications, most notably, a Subgaleal Hemorrhage. Almost 90 percent of Subgaleal Hemorrhages are caused due to improper use of vacuum extractor. Improper use of vacuum extractor that can lead to Subgaleal Hemorrhage include:

  • Applying the vacuum extractor with excessive force
  • Applying excessive force
  • Leaving the vacuum extractor suction cup on the baby’s head for too long
  • Attempting the use of a vacuum extractor too many times
  • Improper placement of the suction cup on the baby’s head for too long

Improper use of vacuum extractors is not the only cause of Subgaleal Hemorrhages. Some traumatic events during childbirth such as improper use of forceps can also cause Subgaleal Hemorrhage. If a vacuum extractor is used to assist a baby’s delivery, doctors need to constantly monitor the baby’s blood's ability to clot, the baby’s red blood count, the baby’s vital signs and the head size.

If a Subgaleal Hemorrhage is not diagnosed and treated immediately, it can send the baby into shock. If hemorrhaging continues, the affected area of the head will continue to swell and the resulting blood loss will likely cause symptoms such as rapid heart rate, lethargy, difficulty breathing, pale skin, and seizures.

Risks and treatment of Subgaleal Hemorrhage

Babies who suffer from a Subgaleal Hemorrhage, need to be treated immediately. If not treated properly, it can cause an increased risk of:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Seizure disorders
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Developmental delays
  • Abnormally high bilirubin levels

Treatment of Subgaleal Hemorrhages include administration of blood products such as frozen plasma and packed red blood cells to prevent the baby from going into shock due to low blood pressure. Bleeding and coagulation problems can be treated by administering saline, however, in some cases, surgery may be necessary in order to remove the excess blood collected in the subgaleal space.

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, nearly one out of four infants who suffer from this kind of hemorrhage die. Our Chicago birth injury lawyer explains that while all instrumented deliveries carry some amount of risk, some doctors who perform vacuum assisted deliveries are not aware of the life threatening complications that any negligence can lead to.

If your child has sustained a Subgaleal Hemorrhage due to the doctor’s negligence, you can seek compensation for all your economic and non-economic losses you suffered as a result. Contact an awarded Chicago birth injury lawyer at Willens Law Office to get help with your claim - Call (312) 957-4166 for a free consultation.

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