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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Subarachnoid Hemorrhage – Symptoms

A subarachnoid hemorrhage is a bleeding that occurs from a damaged artery at the surface of the brain. The bleeding often occurs in babies who experience a head trauma at birth, such as being dropped or from trauma caused by delivery tools, such as forceps. A hemorrhage is a medical emergency.

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Unfortunately, a subarachnoid hemorrhage is a kind of stroke, and it can lead to permanent brain damage and other long-term side effects and difficulties.

During this type of hemorrhage, blood pulses into the space between the skull and brain, mixing with the cerebrospinal fluid that protects the spinal cord and the brain. As the blood flows into the infant’s cerebral spinal fluid, it will increase the pressure, ultimately interfering with the brain’s functioning.

In the days immediately after the hemorrhage, chemical irritation from blood that has clotted may lead to the arteries going into spasm, and this spasm can cause further brain damage to the baby.

A subarachnoid hemorrhage in newborn babies can occur because blood leaks from an abnormal tangle of arteriovenous malformation – blood vessels. Sadly, many babies are born with problems with their blood vessels that can result in a hemorrhagic stroke. Other babies may have diseases that can contribute to the bleeding including:

Elk & Elk
  • Infection
  • Trauma
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Moyamoya disease

The Signs and Symptoms of a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage in Babies

The signs and symptoms of bleeding on the brain in newborn babies and infants include:

  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Extreme irritability
  • Bulging fontanelle – the soft spot just at the top of the baby’s head
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion

Children may have one or more symptoms, too, when they experience a hemorrhage. Typically, the symptoms will occur suddenly (both in babies and children), and initial signs of a hemorrhage might include:

  • Loss of consciousness after other symptoms are experienced
  • A severe headache
  • Sleepiness
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures, especially those that affect one side of the body and are followed by paralysis on that side

These symptoms tend to be followed by:

  • Trouble seeing clearly either in one or both eyes
  • Numbness or weakness of the arm, leg, or face, usually just on one side of the body
  • Problems speaking and understanding language, including trouble trying to speak, slurred speech, the inability to speak whatsoever, and difficulty understanding the simplest of directions
  • Difficulty walking due to weakness or difficulty moving one side of the body

If it is your child experiencing a hemorrhage, and displaying symptoms thereof, you can:

  • Dial 911 or take your child to the closest Emergency Department
  • Have him or her lie flat
  • Do not offer him or her anything to drink or eat

As for babies, physicians will typically note the signs and symptoms, where present, of a hemorrhage and act swiftly to determine its location and size so as to treat it.

Often, babies undergo cooling therapy whereby they are placed on a mat that is filled with water and cooled to help cool down their core temperature, slow down their metabolic rate, and therefore restrict blood vessels and the bleeding. Usually, cooling therapy is undertaken for approximately three days, where the baby is closely monitored. Cooling therapy has been shown to help limit secondary consequences that often arise from a subarachnoid hemorrhage in babies, including learning difficulties and even cerebral palsy.

The Diagnosis and Treatment of Bleeding on the Brain in Newborns

A brain bleed in a newborn baby can be somewhat more difficult to diagnose based on the symptoms compared to older children and even adults. In order to diagnose hemorrhages in babies, physicians will perform certain tests to assess the health of the baby’s brain, such as:

  • Transcranial Doppler – sound waves are used to measure the flow of blood and provide a picture of the overall flow throughout the brain.
  • CT/MRI scan – to provide a detailed picture of the workings of the baby’s brain.
  • Angiography – a thin tube is inserted into the baby’s blood vessels leading to the brain. A contrast dye is then inserted, and photographs are taken while the contrast lights up the blood vessels.

Treating a brain bleed in a newborn or infant depends on the size of the bleed, its cause, and other health factors. For severe circumstances, surgery may be necessary.