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Philadelphia Med Mal & Birth Injury Lawyer / Blog / Birth Injury / Infant Brain Bleed (Intracranial Hemorrhage) Birth Injuries

Infant Brain Bleed (Intracranial Hemorrhage) Birth Injuries


What are infant brain bleed birth injuries and how do they occur? Birth injury lawyer Heidi G. Villari explains how an infant can suffer an intracranial hemorrhage during labor or delivery, how a brain bleed can affect an infant, and what actions families can take to get compensation if their child suffered a brain bleed due to negligence or medical malpractice and suffers lasting effects.

If your child suffered a brain bleed, call Philadelphia birth injury lawyer Heidi G. Villari at 215-372-8889 to discuss your case with us free of charge. We have over 20 years of experience helping those injured due to medical malpractice get the compensation they are due, and we’ve recovered over $130 million for our clients and their families in and near Philadelphia and South Jersey. You can trust us to help you too.

How Infant Brain Bleeds Happen

An infant can suffer an intracranial hemorrhage at any time during labor or delivery. If the infant is deprived of oxygen during birth due to complications or medical mistakes (“birth asphyxia”), that may cause a brain bleed. Birth trauma caused by misuse of forceps, vacuum-assisted birth, or improper twisting or use of force on the infant during delivery may also cause a brain bleed.

What Happens When a Baby Has a Brain Bleed

A brain bleed may be mild, with no lasting effects, or severe, causing ongoing complications and disabilities. The following types of brain bleeds can cause the most severe neonatal brain damage:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke (ruptured blood vessel in the brain)
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain’s ventricular system)
  • Subdural hemorrhage (bleeding in the subdural space)

Extracranial hemorrhages are another type of brain bleed that occurs between the skull and the skull covering (cephalohematoma) or the skull and the scalp (subgaleal hematoma). These are usually caused by improper use of vacuum extraction or forceps. Extracranial hemorrhages can be severe or may be mild, but must be medically monitored. Often they go away on their own but the infant may require treatment for complications such as jaundice or anemia.

Grades of Brain Bleed

Brain bleeds are graded to assist medical professionals with diagnosis and treatment. Categorizations of infant brain bleeds include:

  • Grade 1, when bleeding is limited to the germinal matrix;
  • Grade 2, when there is bleeding in the ventricles but the ventricles have not changed;
  • Grade 3, when there is bleeding in the ventricles and the ventricles are dilated;
  • Grade 4, when there is blood in the ventricles, the ventricles are dilated, and there is blood in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage).

An infant brain bleed prognosis depends upon the location and severity of the brain bleed. Grades 3 and 4 brain bleeds are the most severe and can have a lasting effect on an infant, while grades 1 and 2 brain bleeds may resolve on their own.

Preventing Intracranial Hemorrhages in Infants

Besides adhering to the appropriate standard of care during labor and delivery, medical staff must assess the mother and infant’s risk of a brain bleed. Risk factors include:

  • Blood disorders such as hemophilia or vitamin K deficiency
  • Premature birth (more than 10 weeks early)
  • Abnormally low birth weight
  • Abnormally high birth weight
  • Abnormally large head
  • Mother has unusually small pelvis
  • Fetus in breech, face, or brow presentation
  • Prolonged labor
  • Decreased oxygen or blood flow to the baby during delivery

Medical professionals must monitor for signs of fetal distress during labor and delivery. If such signs occur, when appropriate they may order an emergency C section. They must inform the mother of all risks associated with a C section and get her consent.

Signs of Infant Brain Bleeds

The following signs and behaviors may indicate that an infant has suffered a brain bleed:

  • Seizures
  • Bulging fontanelle (soft spot)
  • Strained breathing
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive sleep
  • Difficulty feeding (weak suck)

If medical professionals note that risk factors are present and/or the infant shows any signs of a brain bleed, they order an MRI or CT scan, or both to find out if there is blood within the skull. An infant brain bleed may be treated surgically or with medication if warranted.

Long-Term Effects of Intracranial Hemorrhages

An infant’s brain bleed prognosis depends upon the severity and location of the bleed as well as whether there was early medical intervention. Infant brain bleeds can cause cerebral palsy, hearing impairment, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, and developmental delays. In studies of children who suffered intracranial hemorrhages, they show a higher rate of low IQ scores and test scores as well as impairments in the skills of daily living as compared to their peers.

Talk with an Experienced Birth Injury Attorney

If you suspect that negligence or medical malpractice during labor or delivery caused your baby’s brain bleed, contact us for your free case evaluation. We take birth injury cases on contingency, meaning that we do not get paid unless you do and there are no upfront legal fees for you. Call us today – we can help you hold the medical professionals responsible and get your family the compensation you deserve.

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