Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, sometimes called HIE, is the technical medical term for a type of asphyxia: brain and/or spinal damage caused by a lack of oxygen. When HIE occurs, the body’s oxygen supply is inadequate, and when insufficient oxygen reaches the brain or spine, the cells are damaged.
HIE in infants and children is often the result of medical malpractice at birth. Although hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is quite rare, with about three infant out of every 1,000 suffering from the condition. For those infants who do suffer, however, HIE is extremely serious, and can lead to death or severe, permanent brain injury.
Indeed, close to twenty percent of infants who suffer hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy during or shortly before childbirth do not survive past infancy. For the eighty percent who do live, over one-quarter suffer permanent brain injury. These injuries can include developmental disabilities (including mental retardation), epilepsy, and cerebral palsy.
At times, the cause of HIE in a particular infant is unknown. But a number of factors in childbirth are known causes, including:
- Umbilical cord problems
- Uterine rupture
- Maternal hypotension
- Placental abruption
Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is often tied to a difficult labor, and complications during delivery or childbirth. Whatever the triggering factors, the failure to properly monitor both mother and fetus, and to respond promptly to fetal distress, can lead to HIE.
Diagnosis of HIE in infants is problematic, as symptoms may go unrecognized, or may be generic, mimicking many other conditions. Many birth brain injuries have similar symptoms during infancy, such as seizures. As a result, the diagnosis of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy must often be delayed until the child is slightly older.
Once the diagnosis is made, the child may need extensive treatments and therapies. Although the damage is generally permanent, victims can – depending upon the severity of the damage – learn to manage their condition. To do so, however, will often require special equipment, years to a lifetime of multiple therapies (speech, physical, occupational), expensive medical treatments, paid caregivers, and other expenses.
If medical negligence was to blame for an infant’s hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, however, a legal recovery can help to defer some of these costs. If your child has been diagnoses with HIE, talk to an experienced birth injury attorney as soon as possible. A top attorney can help you to determine the causes of your child’s condition, and to decide whether to take legal action.
If you have any questions about your labor and deliver or brain damage that you believe was caused by negligence at birth, please give us a call us at 312-527-4500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary consultation. You can also learn more by following us on Twitter, reviewing our LinkedIn or Avvo.com pages, and by reviewing our website.