Epidural Hematomas are very serious brain injuries. When they are diagnosed early, damage to the brain can be minimal, but if left untreated, individuals can suffer serious brain damage and even death. Epidural hematoma causes cerebral palsy and other developmental disorders in infants, so it’s especially important that they are quickly treated if they occur during or after childbirth.
Epidural hematomas are caused by hemorrhages that occur in the skull when an artery or vein starts bleeding and forming a mass of blood cells between the skull and the outer layers of the brain. As this blood accumulates, the pressure within the skull increases and causes compression of the brain. When the brain compresses, the different structures and areas of the brain can become damaged and destroyed. The bleeding may also reduce the blood flow to some areas of the brain, resulting in ischemia and hypoxia.
The most common epidural hematoma causes in adults include blunt force trauma to the head, car accidents and other deceleration injuries, and strokes. There are also many epidural hematoma causes for infants, and because infants are less able to demonstrate that something is wrong, it’s important to understand what can cause the hematoma to occur.
Spontaneous Epidural Hematoma Causes
The most distressing types of hematoma are the examples where there is no specific cause. Sometimes a brain hemorrhage occurs seemingly spontaneously in the form of fetal or infant stroke. Though strokes are more common in adults, they still can occur in children and infants. Doctors believe that most fetal strokes are caused by maternal infections, preeclampsia, and other issues relating to the mother’s blood flow and immune system. When a fetus experiences a stroke, epidural hematoma causes cerebral palsy after a short duration of bleeding.
Congenital Epidural Hematoma Causes
Sometimes a fetus or a newborn will suffer from an epidural hematoma due to a congenital defect. If the brain or the vascular system did not develop correctly, there is an increased chance of hemorrhage and stroke.
Difficult or Traumatic Childbirth
Though it is rare, epidural hematoma sometimes occurs during childbirth. All deliveries put a large amount of pressure and stress on a baby’s body. The head is especially at risk of trauma and compression as it travels through the birth canal. If the compression caused by the pelvic bones and birth canal is too intense, it can cause damage or trauma to the brain. This can result in an epidural hematoma.
Longer and more difficult deliveries have an increased risk of epidural hematoma because the baby, and the baby’s head, is under stress for a longer period of time. An epidural hematoma may also occur if there are complications with the umbilical cord, such as if it’s prolapsed or pinched. Constriction of the umbilical cord can result in a sudden change in blood pressure, and this can cause a hemorrhage in the infant’s brain, such as epidural hematoma.
Negligence or Malpractice During Childbirth
It is very uncommon for an epidural hematoma to be caused by the actions of the doctor and medical staff, but it has happened in the past. If inexperienced practitioners do not take care when they deliver the baby, they can cause increased compression of the skull. A fracture of the infant’s skull can cause a very serious form of epidural hematoma if the fractured bone ruptures an artery or vein in the brain.
Skull fractures and birth trauma increase when medical staff members use tools to assist delivery such as forceps and vacuum extraction. If these tools are used too much or used incorrectly, they may put additional pressure on the infant’s head, increasing the chance of a skull fracture and an epidural hematoma.