Cephalohematoma (CH): What Is It and What Does It Mean for Your Baby

What Is Cephalothorax?

Cephalothorax refers to the space between the lungs and chest wall. When air enters your body through your mouth or nose, it passes from one part of your body to another. Air may pass through your lungs into your heart, stomach, intestines, bladder or other organs. However, when you breathe out through your mouth or nose, some of the air does not make it all the way back to your lungs. Instead of returning to the lungs, some of it goes up into the upper part of your throat and then down into your windpipe (trachea).

The trachea is a tube that carries air from one place inside the body to another. If the trachea becomes blocked, you will experience difficulty breathing. You may feel like you are suffocating.

When air enters your lungs, it travels through several different parts of your body before reaching the lungs. The air that reaches the lungs is called exhalation and is what most people think of when they hear “exhale.” Exhalation contains carbon dioxide gas and oxygen gas.

Carbon dioxide helps keep us alive by helping our bodies use energy to function properly.

When a baby is first born, he or she may have an obstruction in the airway. This situation can cause injury to the airways, which is referred to as tracheomalacia. The airways are also commonly known as the windpipe.

When the windpipe collapses inward, it means there is no longer an unobstructed passageway for air to flow into and out of the lungs without hindrance.

What Is Cephalhematoma?

Cephalhematoma is a medical condition that affects a newborn’s head. It can affect one or more parts of the skull. Cephalhematoma involves a collection of blood between the skin and bone layer of the scalp. It can also be referred to as a cephalohematoma, cephalhematomalacia, caput cephalhematoma, or simply hematoma. This medical condition normally develops during delivery or in the first few weeks of life.

Cephalhematoma can be caused by a difficult delivery, an accidental injury to a baby’s head, or even a weak blood vessel in the scalp. An infant who is suffering from this medical condition may have a swelling on his or her head. This swelling may be accompanied by a strong red or purple discoloration of the skin.

It can appear suddenly or gradually over a period of days.

The condition may be found on its own without any other complications. However, it can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition known as caput, which involves swelling in the scalp area. The swelling that forms in these cases isn’t caused by blood collecting under the scalp.

Instead, the swelling is caused by arachnoiditis, which is an inflammation of the covering of the brain.

Cephalhematoma usually remains a short-term condition that disappears within two years. However, in rare cases, it may also be seen in children who have experienced brain trauma. Younger infants are more likely to experience brain damage if they are suffering from this medical condition.

Who Is at Risk for Cephalhematoma?

Cephalhematoma can affect children of any age. It most commonly affects infants between one and five months of age. There appears to be a higher risk of cephalhematoma in babies who were delivered vaginally rather than by cesarean section. There is also a higher risk for cephalhematoma in infants who are very premature or those born with a low birth weight.

Cephalhematoma may also develop in infants who have experienced a head injury or suffered from forceps delivery. In addition, there is a potential risk for infants who are suffering from an underlying medical condition known as arachnoiditis.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cephalhematoma?

The most common symptom of cephalhematoma is a swelling on the top or back of an infant’s head. There may be a strong red or purple discoloration in the affected area. In some cases, the scalp may contain white or yellow pus-like liquid. It is very rare for an infant to experience fever. While the swelling may be painful, most infants are not bothered by any pain.

How Is Cephalhematoma Diagnosed?

If a health care practitioner believes that an infant is suffering from an underlying medical condition known as arachnoiditis, he or she may order a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Test (MRI) in order to confirm his or her suspicions. It is not uncommon for an infant to experience a combination of cephalhematoma with an underlying medical condition such as arachnoiditis.

If the medical condition is diagnosed early enough, cephalhematoma may not be life-threatening. If there is a potential risk of brain damage, further tests will be ordered in order to assess the infant’s overall condition. This may include an Electroencephalogram (EEG) or even an analysis of blood and spinal fluid samples.

Infants who have experienced brain damage may also suffer from symptoms such as seizures and severe learning disabilities.

How Is Cephalhematoma Treated?

Cephalhematoma is usually a harmless condition and does not necessarily require any treatment. The swelling is expected to last between one and two years before it goes away completely. In cases of cephalhematoma combined with an underlying medical condition such as arachnoiditis, the infant may experience long-term damage that will require treatment.

In certain rare cases, cephalhematoma may be life-threatening for an infant. If the condition is severe and the infant is not making any chances, he or she may need to undergo surgery in order to remove the blood clot. If this occurs, the infant will most likely experience a full recovery after surgery.

Long-term treatment for cephalhematomas that have developed from an underlying medical condition such as arachnoiditis may involve medication or surgery.

Sources & references used in this article:

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Calcified cephalohematoma: classification, indications for surgery and techniques by CH Wong, CL Foo, WT Seow – Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, 2006 – journals.lww.com

B-mode gray scale ultrasound of the head in the newborn and young infant by DS Babcock, BK Han… – American Journal of …, 1980 – Am Roentgen Ray Soc

Incidence of cranial asymmetry in healthy newborns by WK Peitsch, CH Keefer, RA LaBrie, JB Mulliken – Pediatrics, 2002 – Am Acad Pediatrics

The incidence of late cephalohematoma following craniofacial surgery by S Ghali, KR Knox, S Boutros, CH Thorne… – Plastic and …, 2007 – journals.lww.com

Endoscopic-assisted treatment of sagittal craniosynostosis and calcified cephalohematoma by DC Nguyen, KB Patel, AS Woo, AA Kane… – Journal of Craniofacial …, 2014 – journals.lww.com

Sagittal craniosynostosis combined with ossified cephalhematoma—a tricky and demanding puzzle by GL Kaiser, V Oesch – Child’s nervous system, 2009 – Springer

Epidural hematoma treated by aspiration of accompanying cephalhematoma in a newborn infant by KW Oh, HM Kim – Korean Journal of Pediatrics, 2007 – e-cep.org

Birth injury of the cranium and central nervous system by R Reichard – Brain Pathology, 2008 – Wiley Online Library