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What is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE, is a serious type of brain damage that occurs when newborns are deprived of necessary oxygen. Without a constant supply of oxygen, a baby’s brain will be deprived of blood flow, which can result in severe, permanent damage. Typically, HIE injuries occur before the child is born, or during the childbirth process. Without immediate medical intervention and treatment, the baby can suffer lifelong injuries, or, in some cases, the results can be fatal.

If your child developed HIE during the birth process, make sure you know how this condition is caused, how to treat it, and the common types of damage that occur as a result.

Understanding HIE

Pregnancy and childbirth can be complex, challenging, and, in some cases, dangerous. If the baby receives an insufficient oxygen supply at any point while he or she is in the mother’s uterus, the resulting damage can be extreme. HIE occurs most often when a baby is deprived of oxygen during the childbirth process, or while the mother is in labor. In some cases, labor can be overlong or particularly strenuous, or other health factors may contribute to a more complicated birth process. When this happens, the baby’s oxygen supply may be cut or decreased, leading to a lack of blood flow to the brain. As a result, the baby may suffer brain damage in the form of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy.

HIE may be caused by any of the following conditions/complications:

  • Abnormal fetal position
  • Abnormal maternal blood pressure
  • Anemia
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Infection
  • Maternal cardiac problems
  • Maternal diabetes
  • Medication errors
  • Placental rupture
  • Poor fetal heart monitoring
  • Poor placental blood circulation
  • Preeclampsia
  • Premature birth
  • Prolonged labor
  • Umbilical cord accidents
  • Uterine rupture

Common HIE Treatments

HIE must be treated quickly, otherwise, the baby’s damage could grow more severe. As the oxygen deprivation continues, so too does the brain damage, which is why the problem must be addressed swiftly and with care. Doctors or nurses may reposition the pregnant mother to restore the baby’s oxygen supply, or they may order an emergency C-section. Medical staff must also administer proper fetal heart rate monitoring to keep an eye on the baby’s vitals, otherwise, the baby could be losing vital oxygen without anyone’s knowledge.

In most cases, the doctors must provide therapeutic hypothermia, which is a controlled cold-temperature therapy meant to minimize brain damage. However, if this isn’t administered correctly, it could cause more damage in other ways. Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIE, and the resulting damage can vary significantly in each case.

Know Your Next Step

If your child suffered a serious brain injury, like HIE, you may have cause to take legal action. In some cases, medical negligence may result in severe, if not fatal, birth injuries. If your doctor, nurse, or hospital was negligent in identifying HIE, if they failed to properly treat HIE, or if they did something to cause a brain injury, they could be liable for the resulting damage.

Our experienced attorneys can work alongside your family to determine whether or not you have cause to file a birth injury claim, and we can handle the details of your case while you focus on caring for your family and healing after your ordeal. However complex your case may seem, we’re here for you.

Contact Cullan & Cullan LLC to discuss your case with our HIE birth injury attorneys.


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