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What is Cephalohematoma?

By Vanessa Harvey
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The prefixes cephal and cephalo refer to the head, and hematoma is the medical term for a collection of blood. Cephalohematoma is a collection of blood in the area of the head, specifically under a structure called the periosteum. This is a strong, white fibrous material that covers the bones, including the cranium, commonly known as the skull. Nerves and blood vessels pass through the periosteum as they leave and enter the actual bone.

This condition can have the appearance of a soft swelling just under what appears to be the scalp and is outlined by borders. It often is described as a bulge in the scalp. If palpated, it can feel like a small balloon containing a liquid such as water. A large cephalohematoma might feel firm instead of mushy when pressed.

A minor injury during labor or delivery of a baby can cause this condition. If a baby's head is large enough to cause pressure to be exerted on it as it passes through the pelvic bones of the mother, tearing of the periosteum can occur. The tearing of the tiny blood vessels in this membrane results in hemorrhage or bleeding, which causes blood to collect under the structure. Cephalohematoma occurs more commonly when forceps are used during delivery. Sometimes, it also is seen in the delivery of the babies of first-time mothers.

Although this condition can involve a cranial fracture, it usually heals without medical intervention. A physician usually will refrain from inserting a needle into the hematoma because of the risk of infection. Generally, the blood is broken down into its components and reabsorbed into the newborn's system, where it will either be recycled or discarded. Bilirubin is one of the components that, if the hematoma is large, might lead to hyperbilirubinemia or jaundice of the baby, but this rarely is seen, as are deposits of the mineral calcium in the collection of blood. Parents who have a baby with cephalohematoma are advised to consult a doctor concerning any bulge present on their baby's skull to be sure there are no life-threatening injuries to the child.

Calcification and hardening usually follow the formation of the hematoma within a period of two or three months. Generally, there is no need to be concerned about scarring, because the swelling and any traces of the collection of blood hardly ever are seen even with the use of X-ray technology. The baby should continue to develop without any health problems related to cephalohematoma.

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Discussion Comments
By Azuza — On Dec 01, 2012

I'm surprised that even a minor birth injuries can cause this condition, and I'm also surprised I don't hear about it more. I always thought that most babies experience small injuries during birth, so cephalohematomas should be fairly common I guess.

By Monika — On Nov 30, 2012

@KaBoom - It is definitely nice that cephalohematomas go away on their own most of the time. However, I just wanted to say that if your baby has a lump on their head that you think is a cephalohematoma, you should probably go to the doctor and get it checked out anyway. You never know if your kid is going to be the rare one to develop complications!

By KaBoom — On Nov 29, 2012

Cephalohematoma (and cephalohematoma complications) sounds like it could be really scary, especially for a first time mother. I'm not a mom, but I have a few friends that had babies recently, and they freak out over every tiny thing that happens, so I can only imagine how they would react to a mushy lump on their child's head.

Still, I'm sure it's comforting to most mothers that cephalohematomas go away on their own most of the time. I can't imagine how scary it would be to have to send your baby in to surgery!

By JaneAir — On Nov 28, 2012

@anon304422 - I have no idea how common it is for a baby to develop cephalohematoma after surgery. That sounds like a question your doctor would be more qualified to answer (and probably a question doctors get all the time in a case like yours.) Either way, I hope your son feels better soon.

By anon304422 — On Nov 19, 2012

My son had a lymphangioma removed from his scalp twice: once at five months old and once at six months old. Since the second surgery, the lymphangioma has come back, as well as what the doctors are assuming to be a calcified cephalohematoma. Is this common after a surgery?

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