Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

Birth injuries can have a devastating impact on a child’s life. Neonatal Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy is a truly life-altering injury that can have detrimental consequences for developing babies. 

In general, Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy is a type of brain injury that is caused by a lack of oxygen reaching the brain. When the brain is deprived of oxygen, adequate blood flow does not reach any of the body’s organs, especially the brain. This condition is extremely dangerous and requires immediate medical attention. In some cases, babies are forced to undergo cooling therapy right after birth in an attempt to reverse the impacts on oxygen deprivation on the brain.

There are endless cases where HIE leads to cerebral palsy and other life-altering disabilities in children. Intrapartum Asphyxia is believed to be the cause of more than 840,000 neonatal deaths every year across the world, also contributing to HIE. In addition to the neurological deficits caused by Intrapartum Asphyxia, it is also a cause of multiorgan failure. 

Babies are likely to experience severe problems throughout their lives when they have developed HIE. These victims will suffer from severe muscle impairments, possible organ failure, and an array of other disabilities that drastically impact their health and quality of life. 

When Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy is suffered by a baby, as a result of medical negligence, it is imperative that their families reach out to a medical malpractice attorney immediately. Families may be entitled to compensation to help cover the costs of medical treatment, devices, and therapies that these victims will need to utilize for the rest of their lives.

Our team at The Malpractice Group understands the unique challenges of babies with HIE face. Not only are babies forced to endure an array of difficulties and life-altering challenges, but their families are often forced to endure mental, emotional, and financial strains as well. When babies suffer as a result of medical negligence, our team works aggressively to get them justice. Contact our law firm today to see how we can help you.

How Does Oxygen Deprivation Occur?

There are numerous causes of oxygen deprivation prior to, during, or after the birthing process. The most common cause of a hypoxic-ischemic injury is intrauterine asphyxia, which develops as a result of circulatory problems. Some of the most common causes of this grievous condition include, but are not limited to:

  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Maternal Diabetes Combined with Vascular Disease
  • Preeclampsia
  • Severe Fetal Anemia
  • Very Low Material Blood Pressure
  • Lung Malformation
  • Prolonged Labor in the Later Stages
  • Abnormal Fetal Positioning
  • Umbilical Cord Accidents
  • Anesthesia Errors
  • Forceps and Vacuum Extractor Injuries
  • Vaginal Birth after Cesarean (VBAC)
  • The misuse of Pitocin and Cytotec
  • Mismanagement of Neonatal Breathing
  • High-Risk Pregnancies
  • Fetal Monitoring Errors
  • Birth Trauma
  • Severe Cardiac/Pulmonary Disease
  • Infections
  • Low Neonatal Blood Pressure
  • Severe Prematurity
  • Brain/Skull Trauma
  • Congenital Brain Malformations

As you can imagine, a plethora of these causes are the result of medical negligence. Doctors who do not appropriately treat and monitor expecting mothers and their babies before and during labor can have a detrimental impact on the health and safety of the baby. 

Symptoms of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

Babies who have HIE may exert a multitude of symptoms. Although some symptoms are common among a variety of conditions, the more serious symptoms of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy require immediate medical attention. An HIE infant may display any of the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Poor Feeding Habits
  • Behavioral Abnormalities
  • Seizures/Epileptic Activity
  • Abnormalities of the Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
  • Irregularities of the Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
  • Poor Muscle Tone (Hypotonia)
  • Labored Breathing
  • No Breathing at Birth
  • Excessive Acid Levels in the Blood
  • The Presence of Meconium in the Amniotic Fluids at Birth

Noticing any of these symptoms requires prompt medical attention. Without proper and immediate care, babies can experience severe complications that can be life-threatening.

How Serious is Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy?

The seriousness of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy depends on the severity of brain damage incurred by the baby during the birthing process. The chances of suffering permanent disabilities from HIE are increased depending on:

  • The severity of the oxygen deprivation at birth
  • The length of time in which the baby was deprived of oxygen
  • The condition of the baby prior to suffering the oxygen deprivation
  • The management of the baby by the attending medical team after the event depriving the baby of oxygen occurred

The time a baby can survive without oxygen depends on various factors. First, it is crucial to understand the difference between a baby surviving with adverse health effects, including permanent brain damage, and surviving without any adverse effects. 

Newborns with Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy may not show signs of the injuries until later in childhood. Common signs, later on, include a delay in reaching developmental milestones. The child may have problems with growth, cognitive functions, motor skills, and other natural movements and abilities.

The more extensive the brain damage is, the more likely the child is to suffer from life-long debilitating injuries and conditions. HIE can result in several long-term impairments, disabilities, and conditions, including:

Seizure Disorders: Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy is a common cause of neonatal seizure disorders. Although some babies experience only one seizure episode, there are countless others who suffer seizure disorders that extend well into childhood and even adulthood. Seizures can cause worsening in brain damage caused by Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy, making it imperative for the condition to be addressed immediately.

Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral palsy is a severe disability that is caused by Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy. This disorder impacts the motor skills of newborns by causing unusual or involuntary movements. CP can also cause musculoskeletal conditions that result in deformities to the joints and bones. Many people who suffer from cerebral palsy experience severe cognitive impairments, epilepsy, and vision and hearing problems.

Learning Disabilities: Suffering from learning disabilities as a result of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy means a child does not reach critical developmental milestones within the expected time. These milestones can relate to intellectual abilities, behaviors, communication, and even physical functions. Overcoming these issues can be difficult or impossible for some.

Motor Disorders: As babies grow, they learn to use their muscles in many ways. One way we unknowingly learn to utilize our muscles is through involuntary movements. Children who suffer from motor disorders may be unable to control how their muscles work. They may not be able to pick up objects, turn their heads, or even walk.

Microcephaly: This condition is diagnosed in infants who have heads that are significantly smaller than what they should be. This condition is indicative of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy and can increase the risk of children suffering from developmental delays, cerebral palsy, as well as other serious deficits and disabilities.

Speech/Language Problems: People who suffer from speech and language disorders may have problems forming words or even articulating sounds. These people may experience drastic limitations in communicating with and understanding others. 

Vision/Hearing Impairments: Babies who suffer from Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy may never develop the ability to hear or see properly. As a result, they will lack critical communication skills necessary to thrive, engage in activities, and express how they feel.

Sensory Processing Disorders: SPD is a condition that relates to the way our body’s nervous system receives and responds to messages from the sensors. When sensory signals are not detected by the brain, the body is unable to express an appropriate response. 

Many of these overwhelming conditions have a drastic impact on the lives of babies and their families. Addressing the condition through therapy, medical devices, medications, and other treatments take a lot of time and financial resources. When victims suffer these devastating consequences of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy due to the negligence or reckless actions of medical professionals, it is crucial that their families reach out to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Those harmed may be entitled to compensation to ensure the costs of treatment are covered.

How is Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy Diagnosed?

 

There are guidelines established by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics that indicate criteria that must be present or have occurred for a perinatal asphyxia diagnosis. This criterion includes:

  • An Apgar score between 0 and 3 that lasts longer than 5-minutes
  • Having a pH less than 7 in an umbilical artery blood sample test
  • Involvement of multiple organs, like the heart, lungs, liver, and intestines
  • Neonatal neurologic abnormal conditions like seizures, poor muscle tone, or coma are present

There are various tests that can be administered to confirm the presence of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy in a baby. These include tests and neuroimaging studies such as:

  • CT Scans
  • PET Scans
  • MRIs
  • Blood Glucose Testing
  • Umbilical Cord Test
  • Arterial Blood Gas Test
  • EEG
  • Ultrasounds

If your child suffers from Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy, due to the negligence of a medical professional, you should speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to discuss legal options available for you. You may be eligible for compensation to ensure your child gets the medical treatment they need.

Treatment Options for Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

Fortunately, there are some treatment options available for babies suffering from Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy. Some common treatment options for babies with Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy include mechanical ventilation to provide them with assistance breathing, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, and medications. There are several treatments routinely practiced to help the baby’s heart function and to control blood pressure.

Cooling therapy is another treatment that is routinely used to reverse brain hypoxia. This therapy is used to lower the baby’s normal body temperature following oxygen deprivation to improve the chances of growing up without disabilities.

Having adequate treatment can improve the chances of HIE baby recovery and drastically increase HIE baby life expectancy. Unfortunately, costs for care can be overwhelming for families. For this reason, it is imperative that families of those injured by medical negligence reach out to a birth injury attorney as soon as possible.

Preventative Measures for Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

Although there is no way to guarantee problem-free childbirth, there are distinct actions medical professionals can take to prevent birth injuries like Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy. When it comes to implementing preventative measures for this condition, there are two major actions doctors, nurses, and obstetricians can take. 

The first thing medical professionals can do is closely monitor both the baby and the mother. Fetal heart monitors, blood pressure machines, and other medical devices are beneficial in making sure there is no fetal distress. These machines are also critical for recognizing signs of distress so measures can be taken quickly to ensure the safety of the mother and unborn child.

When fetal distress or impending distress is present, it is crucial to act quickly and deliver the baby. If natural birth is unlikely, it is imperative to perform an urgent C-section to eliminate the possibilities of brain injuries. 

Throughout the entire pregnancy, mothers and babies should have regular prenatal tests performed to ensure their safety. If a pregnancy is considered to be high-risk, more frequent prenatal visits and tests will be needed to ensure everything is on track for a healthy full-term pregnancy. 

Once a mother is admitted into the labor and delivery unit of a hospital, a fetal heart monitor will need to be attached to her body so the baby’s heart rate can be continuously monitored. When medical professionals fail to provide adequate care, they can be held liable for the tragic consequences. Working with a skilled attorney is a victim’s best bet for holding wrongdoers accountable.

The Importance of an Attorney for Your Case

Succeeding on a legal claim surrounding Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy is extremely difficult. For this reason, it is imperative for parents to work with a skilled birth injury attorney who has extensive knowledge of both medicine and law. Our team at The Malpractice Group focuses extensively on helping victims and their families protect their legal rights after suffering the devastating consequences of medical malpractice.

In order to prove that medical malpractice occurred, victims must be able to prove detailed components in their claims. These components include, but are not limited to:

A doctor-patient relationship existed: You must be able to prove that you had a relationship with the doctor you are suing. This essentially means proving that the doctor was hired or agreed to be hired by you to perform medical-related tasks. 

The doctor was negligent: Although you may be unhappy with the treatment you received from the doctor, this is not always grounds for a malpractice case. Instead, you must prove that the doctor was negligent in providing treatment to you or in diagnosing a condition. You must be able to show that the doctor caused you harm that another doctor presented with the same circumstances would not have caused. Although it is not a requirement for a doctor to provide the best care imaginable, they must provide a duty of care that is reasonably careful and skillful.

The doctor’s negligence caused the injury: You must be able to prove the doctor’s actions were the direct cause of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy. You must be able to prove that the doctor’s incompetence directly caused the birth injury your newborn suffers from. Hiring medical experts who can provide testimony regarding the doctor’s negligence and the duty of care expected in support of your claim could be advantageous to your claim. 

The injury led to damages: Although it may be clear that the doctor performed below the expected standards, the patient must be able to prove that their child suffered Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy as a direct result of the medical professional’s actions. 

A failure to diagnose, improper treatment, and even a failure to warn a patient that certain conditions existed during pregnancy and childbirth can result in legal claims being filed against medical professionals. 

It is crucial to pursue legal actions as quickly as possible after the incident occurs. This is particularly true in cases where babies endure HIE. These injuries require prompt and continual treatment, which can be costly. Waiting to take legal action can dramatically impact a victim’s ability to get the care and treatment they need and deserve.

Over the years, our attorneys at The Malpractice Group have successfully helped families get the justice and compensation they deserve after a birth results in Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy due to negligence. Contact our law firm at your earliest convenience to see how we can help you.

The Malpractice Group Can Help You

Our team at The Malpractice Group goes above and beyond to get your family the compensation and justice you deserve. Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys have helped families move forward after devastating birth accidents and ensure babies who suffer from HIE are able to get the medical treatment they need.

Over the years, our medical malpractice attorneys at The Malpractice Group continually provide compassionate and effective representation for victims to ensure their legal rights are protected. If your baby suffered birth injuries as a result of a medical professional’s negligence, contact our team today at (312) 561-4324. Schedule a free case evaluation at your earliest convenience with our team to discuss the circumstances surrounding your case.