What is Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) can be explained by breaking down the term. Hypoxic refers to a shortage of oxygen circulating in the blood, while ischemic pertains to reduced blood flow, specifically to the brain, in this case. These conditions result in encephalopathy or brain damage.
Perinatal HIE, referred to at times as birth asphyxia, perinatal asphyxia, or neonatal encephalopathy, is a birth injury that occurs due to oxygen deprivation. If the brain is deprived of oxygen, cells begin to die and release toxins that impact healthy cells, speeding the process of cell death. This, in turn, can lead to permanent brain damage. Unfortunately, it may be months before parents and doctors recognize the damage caused when developmental delays become evident.
Causes of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy
Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) in infants is related to an acute restriction of blood and oxygen to the brain, leading to cell death. This can occur during pregnancy or childbirth, and common causes include:
- Maternal conditions like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes
- Maternal infections
- Placenta complications like placental abruption, placenta previa, or placental insufficiency
- Uterine complications like uterine rupture
- Umbilical cord complications that affect blood and oxygen supply
- Premature birth
- Prolonged labor
- Failure to monitor, diagnose, and/or treat fetal distress in a timely manner
- Medication complications
- and more
Medical professionals have a responsibility to closely monitor mothers and babies with increased risk factors for Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) and diagnose and treat suspected cases of HIE. Failure to do so could result in significant and lasting harm or even death. When this occurs, parents have the option to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit with the help of the knowledgeable and experienced lawyers at The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq.
Consequences of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy
When HIE is suspected following birth, testing like brain imaging (ultrasound, MRI) and a blood gas test should be undertaken immediately so that treatment to minimize brain damage can proceed. In some cases, therapeutic hypothermia can arrest the process of cell death, potentially minimizing the severity of long-term brain damage. Unfortunately, any damage that has occurred will be permanent.
Perinatal HIE is characterized as mild, moderate, or severe. Mild cases may include symptoms like muscle stiffness, irritability, and feeding problems, but these issues often fade within a few weeks. Moderate cases could include more significant feeding problems, intermittent apnea, impaired reflexes and muscle tone, and even seizures.
Severe cases are characterized by extreme seizures and hypotonia, non-responsiveness, irregular breathing, heart rate, and/or blood pressure, and in some cases, cardiorespiratory failure. Death is also possible, and these symptoms are just what will appear immediately following birth. Children diagnosed with Perinatal HIE may also suffer long-term health problems ranging from developmental delays or motor impairment to cognitive impairment to epilepsy or cerebral palsy, and more.
Did Your Child Suffer from HIE? Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If your child has been diagnosed with Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), he/she may need short-term or lifelong medical care. If the condition was due to medical negligence or omission, you could pursue a medical malpractice case to secure the compensation needed to pay for medical bills and related expenses.
The qualified and experienced team at The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. can help. Contact us now at 310-289-2600 or online to schedule your free initial consultation and discover what we can do for you.