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Philadelphia Med Mal & Birth Injury Lawyer / Blog / Birth Injury / Can Vacuum Delivery Cause Brain Damage?

Can Vacuum Delivery Cause Brain Damage?


Yes. This article explains what vacuum extraction is, what birth injuries vacuum extraction commonly causes, what vacuum extractors are, when a vacuum extractor might be used during delivery, and when a vacuum extractor should not be used.

If your baby suffered an injury due to vacuum extraction during delivery, call the New Jersey birth injury lawyers at The Villari Firm for help. While we cannot guarantee the result in your or any other legal matter, we can tell you we have gotten many six- and seven-figure settlements and awards for our birth injury clients. Leverage our more than 20 years of negotiation and litigation experience to get the compensation your family deserves and hold your medical providers accountable.

What is a Vacuum Extraction Delivery?

A vacuum extraction delivery is when a medical provider uses a birth assistance device called a vacuum extractor, uses suction to assist in or hasten the delivery of a baby.

Head & Brain Birth Injuries Caused by Vacuum Extraction

Common injuries caused by improper use of vacuum extraction during delivery include:

Brain Hemorrhages or Brain Bleeds

If the vacuum ruptures a vein, this causes bleeding between the scalp and the skull (subgaleal brain hemorrhage). This is a common vacuum extraction injury, if the medical provider uses excessive force.suction, prolonged application of the cup to the baby’s head, or otherwise misuses the vacuum. Babies who suffer a subgaleal brain hemorrhage have a 20% chance of dying.

Other types of brain bleeds which may lead to death, cerebral palsy, or neurological impairments include:

  • Subdural Hemorrhage or Subdural Hematoma (rupture of blood vessels between the surface of the brain and the tissue separating the brain from the skull)
  • Intraventricular Hemorrhage (bleeding into the ventricular system)
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (bleeding in the innermost of the two membranes covering the brain)
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage (a stroke, or bleeding within the brain itself)

Cerebral Palsy

Pressure on the brain from a brain bleed can result in one or more of the many forms of cerebral palsy, a condition which permanently affects muscles and motor control and may worsen over time..


A baby who has bruising from damaged blood vessels due to vacuum extraction may have jaundice, and if untreated, develop kernicterus and brain damage as a result.


“Stroke” is the common word for intracranial hemorrhages, or bleeding within the brain. The consequences vary from mild to severe, and may cause mental and physical impairments such as learning disabilities, delay in development, and cerebral palsy.

Skull Fractures

A depressed skull fracture caused by the misuse of a vacuum extractor puts pressure on the brain and can cause any type of brain bleed.

Other Injuries

A baby injured by vacuum extraction may also develop Erb’s Palsy or suffer shoulder dystocia. Injuries to the mother from vacuum extraction can include:

  • Tears in the lower genital tract
  • Pain in the perineum following delivery
  • Difficult urinating
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence
  • Torticollis
  • Brachial plexopathy injuries
  • Nerve injuries to arm and shoulder
  • Paralysis of arm, shoulder wrist

What are Vacuum Extractors?

A vacuum extractor is a birth assistive device having a metal or soft cup applied to the baby’s head when it is in the birth canal. Air vacuum helps to deliver the baby.

In what Cases are Vacuum Extractors Used?

Vacuum extractors are used to assist delivery when:

Abnormal Fetal Heart Rate

If the baby’s heart rate suggests they are in distress, a medical provider may want to speed up delivery with the use of a vacuum extractor.

Labor Is Not Progressing

If the labor is not progressing but the baby is in position to allow the use of a vacuum extractor, a medical professional can use one to assist in completing the delivery.

Mother has Health Conditions

If the mother has a health condition preventing her from pushing or a cardiac or cerebrovascular disease, a medical provider may use a vacuum extractor to assist her in delivering the baby.

Mother is Tired

If the mother is tired due to prolonged labor and delivery or due to a medical condition, a medical provider may use a vacuum extractor to complete delivery.

Examples of Medical Malpractice with Vacuum Extractors

Vacuum Extraction When Less than 33 Weeks Pregnant

Use of a vacuum extractor when the baby is premature is contraindicated.

Vacuum Extraction of Babies with Bone or Bleeding Disorders

If a baby has a bone or bleeding disorder, using a vacuum extractor has a high likelihood of injuring the baby.

Vacuum Extraction when the Baby Can’t Fit through the Pelvis

If the baby’s head is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis, a vacuum extractor will not help either of them. A C section is warranted.

Vacuum Extraction when the Baby’s Head Hasn’t Moved Past Birth Canal

If there is a delay during the second stage of labor, the baby’s head is not in position to make vacuum extraction feasible.

Vacuum Extraction in a Breech Delivery

Vacuum extraction can only be used when the baby presents head first.

Get Help from a Birth Injury Lawyer Today

If you or your baby got injured during a vacuum extraction delivery, call The Villari Firm for help getting the compensation you deserve. Call us today to discuss your case.

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