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Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy and Birth Injuries

infant-hypoxic-ischemic-encephalopathy-and-birth-injuriesHypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is a catastrophic medical condition that occurs during childbirth. It happens when the brain and other organs suffer damage due to a lack of blood or oxygen. It is a common enough condition that birth doctors should anticipate it and take the necessary steps to prevent it.

  • Hypoxia refers to the brain and different organs

  • Ischemia refers to low blood flow

  • Encephalopathy is the damage that occurs to the brain because of the improper amount of blood or oxygen

If the lack of blood or oxygen flow is too prolonged or severe, serious birth injuries or death can result.

HIE symptoms

Common symptoms of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy include:

  • Amniotic fluid that is meconium-stained

  • A low heart rate

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Improper or pale skin color

  • Excess blood acid

Diagnostic tests are used to determine if the newborn has HIE. Common tests include a CT or MRI scan, an echocardiography test, and an ultrasound. An EKG or EEG test may also be used. HIE can range from moderate to severe.

Newborns with mild symptoms may live a relatively normal life. Children with severe symptoms often live with pain and some tragically have a shortened life expectancy. Common medical problems can include:

  • Cognitive difficulties

  • Delays in the development of motor skills

  • Neurodevelopmental delays

  • Epilepsy

The true depth of HIE may not be known until the child is three or four years old.

HIE causes

HIE should be anticipated during pregnancy, delivery, and after birth. Doctors and hospitals should anticipate and monitor the known causes during the pregnancy, including checking for:

  • Maternal diabetes

  • Preeclampsia – a well-known pregnancy complication involving high blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Placenta-related circulation problems

  • Abuse of alcohol and drugs

  • Fetal anemia

Infections and malformation of the lungs can also contribute to HIE prior to the delivery process.

Birth delivery complications can include an abnormal position of the fetus, a ruptured placenta or uterus, a lengthy delivery, problems with the umbilical cord, and excessive bleeding.

HIE can also be due to a lack of proper care after the delivery. Some well-known postpartum HIE problems include:

  • Heart or lung disease

  • Sepsis, meningitis, and other infections

  • Low blood pressure

  • Trauma to the brain or skull

  • A congenital malformation of the brain

There are some treatment options, if done timely, that may help reduce the immediate complications from HIE. Mechanical ventilators can help a baby breathe. Medications can help with seizures. In the long-term, many children with HIE need extensive rehabilitative care.

The Kentucky birth injury malpractice lawyers at Crandall & Pera Law know how crushing an HIE diagnosis of your child can be. We understand the distress and anxiety about the child’s ability to function normally and lead a healthy life. To speak to a caring experienced Kentucky trial attorney, please phone us at 877-686-8879. You can also reach us through our contact form.


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