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Birth traumas

Last updated: December 11, 2020

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Birth trauma is an injury to the newborn caused by mechanical forces during birth. Risk factors include macrosomia, abnormal fetal presentation, prolonged or rapid labor, and forceps or vacuum deliveries. Soft tissue injuries of the scalp include benign cephalohematoma and caput succedaneum, as well as subgaleal hemorrhages, which are associated with a high risk of significant blood loss and require monitoring. The most common skeletal injury is the clavicle fracture, which is often asymptomatic and heals spontaneously within 7–10 days. Skeletal or muscular birth injuries may cause torticollis, a unilateral contraction of the sternocleidomastoid muscle with a resulting head tilt. Other birth injuries include nerve damage, such as brachial plexus injury and facial nerve palsy, which may cause temporary muscle weakness or paralysis. The prognosis of birth traumas is usually favorable, with most injuries resolving spontaneously within weeks to months.

References:[1][2]

Soft tissue injuries of the scalp in infants are mostly caused by shearing forces during vacuum or forceps delivery. Whereas caput succedaneum and cephalohematoma are benign conditions and resolve spontaneously, subgaleal hemorrhages require close monitoring and fluid replacement to prevent hemorrhagic shock.


References:[1][2][3][4]

  • Epidemiology: most common fracture during birth (∼ 2% of deliveries)
  • Clinical features
    • Usually asymptomatic
    • Possible pseudoparalysis
    • Bone irregularities, crepitus, and tenderness over the clavicle possible on palpation
    • Possible brachial plexus palsy
  • Diagnostics: : clinical diagnosis; X-ray; only indicated in cases of gross bone deformation
  • Treatment
    • Reassurance and promote gentle handling of the arm (e.g., while dressing)
    • To avoid discomfort, pin shirt sleeve to the front of the shirt with the arm flexed at 90 degrees
    • Consider analgesics
    • Follow-up 2 weeks later to confirm proper healing: via clinical findings of a callus formation, and possibly an x-ray
    • Usually self-resolves within 2–3 weeks without surgical intervention or long-term complications

References:[1][2][3][5]

References:[6][7][8][9]

  • Epidemiology: most common cranial nerve injury during birth
  • Pathomechanism
    • Injury occurs during forceps-assisted delivery (most common)
    • Prolonged birth in which the head is pressed against the maternal sacral promontory
  • Clinical features
  • Treatment: eye care with artificial tears and ointment
  • Prognosis: spontaneous recovery in 90% of cases within several weeks

References:[2][10]

Shoulder dystocia maneuvers
McRoberts maneuver
  • The patient should stop bearing down and lie supine with the buttocks on the edge of the bed.
  • Abduct, externally rotate, and hyperflex the maternal hips (with the maternal legs pulled towards the head).
Internal maneuvers Rubin maneuver*
Woods maneuver*
Delivery of posterior arm
Zavanelli maneuver

* May be performed with the McRoberts maneuver and may require episiotomy.

Most cases of shoulder dystocia occur in the absence of identifiable risk factors!

Do not pull the fetal head! Doing so may cause brachial plexus injury (Erb palsy). References:[12][13][14][15]

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  2. Kruer MC. Torticollis. In: Benbadis SR, Torticollis. New York, NY: WebMD. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1152543. Updated: July 8, 2016. Accessed: February 23, 2017.
  3. Nilesh K, Mukherji S. Congenital muscular torticollis. Ann Maxillofac Surg. 2013; 3 (2): p.198-200. doi: 10.4103/2231-0746.119222 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  4. Macias CG, Gan V. Congenital Muscular Torticollis: Management and Prognosis. In: Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/congenital-muscular-torticollis-management-and-prognosis.Last updated: April 13, 2017. Accessed: May 12, 2017.
  5. Andersen J, Watt J, Olson J, Van Aerde J. Perinatal brachial plexus palsy. Paediatrics & Child Health. 2006; 11 (2): p.93-100. doi: 10.1093/pch/11.2.93 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  6. Le T, Bhushan V, Bagga HS. First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CK. McGraw-Hill Medical ; 2009
  7. Marino BS, Fine KS. Blueprints Pediatrics. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ; 2013
  8. McKee-Garrett TM. Neonatal Birth Injuries. In: Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/neonatal-birth-injuries.Last updated: September 21, 2015. Accessed: May 11, 2017.
  9. Laroia N. Birth Trauma. In: Rosenkrantz T, Birth Trauma. New York, NY: WebMD. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/980112. Updated: February 2, 2015. Accessed: May 11, 2017.
  10. Bruns AD. Congenital Facial Paralysis. In: Meyers AD, Congenital Facial Paralysis. New York, NY: WebMD. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/878464. Updated: March 4, 2016. Accessed: May 12, 2017.
  11. Chang H-Y, Cheng K-S, Liu Y-P, Hung H-F, Fud H-W. Neonatal infected subgaleal hematoma: An unusual complication of early-onset E. coli sepsis. Pediatrics and Neonatology. 2015; 56 (2): p.126-128. doi: 10.1016/j.pedneo.2013.03.003 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  12. Shoulder Dystocia. https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900147/Shoulder-dystocia. Updated: August 28, 2016. Accessed: August 25, 2017.
  13. Rodis JF. Shoulder Dystocia: Intrapartum Diagnosis, Management, and Outcome. In: Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/shoulder-dystocia-intrapartum-diagnosis-management-and-outcome.Last updated: June 22, 2017. Accessed: August 25, 2017.
  14. Schwechten K. USMLE Step 2 Triage: An Effective No-nonsense Review of Clinical Knowledge. Oxford University Press ; 2010
  15. Fischer C. Master the Boards USMLE Step 2 CK. Kaplan Publishing ; 2017
  16. Jenkins B, McInnis M, Lewis C. Step-Up to USMLE Step 2 CK. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ; 2015
  17. Russman B. Neonatal Brachial Plexus Palsy. In: Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/neonatal-brachial-plexus-palsy.Last updated: July 15, 2016. Accessed: May 12, 2017.
  18. Semel-Concepcion J. Neonatal Brachial Plexus Palsies. In: Moberg-Wolff EA, Neonatal Brachial Plexus Palsies. New York, NY: WebMD. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/317057. Updated: June 17, 2016. Accessed: May 12, 2017.
  19. Hollingworth T. Differential Diagnosis in Obstetrics and Gynaecology: An A-Z. CRC Press ; 2008