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Caput Succedaneum: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Overview

One may come across a newborn with a cone-shaped head and wonder about the reasons for this occurrence. This may be caput succedaneum. 

This blog provides a comprehensive understanding of caput succedaneum, the reasons for the scalp swelling of a newborn, its causes, and the treatment options. 

What is caput succedaneum?

Caput succedaneum refers to the swelling of an infant’s scalp due to prolonged delivery or the use of devices such as forceps. It appears as a lump on their head shortly after delivery. Sometimes the head also looks conical.

Typically, it is a harmless condition due to pressure on the baby’s head during delivery. It is also important to note that this shape change doesn’t indicate damage to the brain or the bones of the baby’s cranium. Sometimes this can also pose a risk for jaundice

What is the difference between caput succedaneum and cephalohematoma?

Caput succedaneum is often confused with cephalohematoma, which refers to bleeding under the scalp. Blood gets collected between the skull and the scalp due to damage occurring in the brain’s blood vessels during labour and delivery. 

What are the causes of caput succedaneum?

There are several causes of caput succedaneum. They are as follows:

  • Long, difficult labour with a lot of pushing puts prolonged pressure on the baby’s head. This pressure from the dilated vaginal walls causes swelling, puffiness, and bruising on the head of the baby. 
  • Using vacuum suction or forceps can also put pressure and increase the risk of swelling.
  • Scalp swelling may happen if the amniotic sac ruptures early in labour. The amniotic sac is the fluid-filled sac in which the baby lies. If its membrane ruptures very early or there is very little fluid in the amniotic sac, the mother’s pelvic bones may apply pressure on the baby’s head. This type of scalp swelling may occur before labour, and the doctors can view it on the ultrasound. The longer the amniotic sac stays around the infant, the lower the chances of swelling of the scalp.

What are the symptoms of caput succedaneum?

One of the main symptoms of caput succedaneum is swelling of the scalp. The skin is swollen and soft; pressing it creates a dimple. The scalp swells either on one side of the skull or may extend across the midline of the scalp.

The swelling usually happens on that part of the skull that was the first to come down the birth canal. Discolouration or bruising is also normal in this case but not as extensive as in cephalohematoma.

Once the swelling reduces, one may notice that the baby’s head is slightly pointed due to the pressure on the bones of the head, which is called moulding. It gradually goes away over time since the bones of the head of the baby aren’t fused and can remould without damage. This condition can be diagnosed with a physical exam.

What is the treatment for caput succedaneum?

Curing caput succedaneum reduces on its own in a few weeks.

What are the potential complications of caput succedaneum?

There are some potential risks to this condition which include:

  • Hair loss: Some babies tend to have hair loss (alopecia) at the site of the swelling. It can be in the shape of a ring or halo. Rarely do scars form on the scalp, leading to permanent hair loss.
  • Jaundice: There are chances of increased bilirubin levels in the blood due to swelling and bruising, leading to jaundice. The baby’s eyes and skin may have a yellow tint due to jaundice. This condition usually improves on its own. 

Conclusion

Caput succedaneum is a common condition in children. Due to its harmless nature, it requires no treatment, and there should be no long-term effects. The swelling should decrease in a few weeks,’ and healthcare providers should be informed. The doctor can prescribe various tests to diagnose the cause.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does C-section cause caput succedaneum?

Caput succedaneum usually occurs in vaginal delivery and not in C-section because there is no pressure on the baby’s head due to pelvic bones or forceps. 

Is the baby’s weight a risk factor for caput succedaneum?

Yes. If the baby weighs more, it could take a lot of time to come down the birth canal, and the pressure causes caput succedaneum. 

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