Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), also known as neonatal encephalopathy, birth asphyxia, and perinatal asphyxia, is a form of brain damage in newborns. The damage results from lack of oxygen and low blood flow.
HIE can lead to permanent disorders and health conditions, including cognitive disabilities, cerebral palsy, hearing and vision impairments, epilepsy, and possibly even death.
This type of newborn brain damage can result from a wide range of complications, many of which are caused or facilitated by a physician’s actions or lack of action.
Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Lawsuits & Injury Cases
Within the legal industry, infant hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy connects very tightly with medical malpractice. Although the medical connection exists, a lawyer cannot just rest on showcasing the obvious: that the pregnancy, labor, or delivery took a wrong turn, and the infant suffered injury as a result.
Rather, your lawyer must prove medical negligence by establishing:
- The level of care and skill that a similarly trained medical provider would have exhibited in a comparable situation (this is called “medical standard of care”)
- How the health care provider failed to meet this medical standard of care
- That this negligence resulted in measurable injury to the newborn
By filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, the parent can at least eliminate the economic concerns resulting from the health care provider’s negligence. A settlement or verdict could yield the following recoverable damages:
- Medical treatment costs (past, present, ongoing, and future)
- Required Surgeries
- Physical rehabilitation
- Physical therapy
- Mobility devices like wheelchairs and other specialized equipment
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Lost income due to parents caring for the disabled infant/child
- Special education costs as the infant grows to school age
- Loss of a family relationship (loss of consortium)
Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Types
Healthcare providers will conduct a range of tests using various diagnostic tools to rate the extent of damage to the newborn’s brain tissue. Based on such criteria as the appearance of the baby after birth, The Sarnat Scale is used in this regard, as are EEG, ultrasound and MRI, and checking cord blood gas levels.
Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Causes
With all the variables that enter into a pregnancy, labor, and delivery, It can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of a specific occurrence of HIE. Some causes include the following:
- High-risk pregnancy factors – Previous c-sections, high blood pressure, alcohol/drug use)
- Umbilical cord issues – Wrapped cord, underdeveloped cord, true knot, umbilical cord prolapse
- Fetal-maternal hemorrhage – Internal bleeding resulting in significant blood loss by mom and baby)
- Placental problems – Placental insufficiency, abruption, clotting, previa
- Uterine rupture – Due to trauma or vaginal birth after cesarean
- Labor and delivery – Shoulder dystocia and vaginal deliveries when issues should have prescribed an emergency c-section
- Blood clotting disorders
- Post-birth causes – Breathing issues, hypoglycemia/hyperglycemia, meconium aspiration syndrome, infections
Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Symptoms
Depending upon how much the brain is injured and which areas of the brain were impacted, symptoms of HIE can vary. Infants born with HIE may display the following symptoms:
- Floppiness and unresponsive to sounds or sights. On the other hand, sometimes a baby with HIE may act tense and exhibit an unusually strong reaction to stimuli.
- Have abnormal movements or seizures.
- Struggles with weak mouth and throat muscles
- Demonstrates a weak cry
- Exhibits indications of organ dysfunction, particularly in the lungs, blood, kidneys, heart, and liver
Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Diagnosis and Treatment
A physician may suspect HIE when:
- They detect fetal distress or a low heart rate during labor and delivery
- They need to assist the baby with breathing
- The baby has a low heart rate after delivery
A neurologist confirms the HIE diagnosis by monitoring the infant for seizures and signs of brain dysfunction using an electroencephalogram. They will also conduct MRIs to look for any indication of brain injury.
Brain cooling is a method of treating the infant immediately after an HIE diagnosis. The treatment is based on research showing that brain injury can be minimized by cooling the infant’s brain by a few degrees below normal body temperature as soon as possible after birth.
Besides the brain cooling treatment, physicians may administer additional therapies in combination to assist any other HIE-impacted organs, such as the heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs. Medications are administered to newborns suffering from seizures.
Ongoing treatment centers on helping the child manage the various brain-injury-related symptoms with physical, medical, and occupational therapy treatments.
Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my baby has Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)?
Your physician may suspect the occurrence of HIE upon witnessing various signs during labor and delivery. In these cases, a neurologist will conduct various tests to confirm HIE and then check for the extent of brain injury.
Can Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) be fatal?
Yes, HIE can be fatal in occasions where oxygen is shut off from the brain for too long, causing bodily systems and functions to stop working.
Who is liable for Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)?
From not adequately monitoring a fetus during pregnancy to waiting too long to perform a C-section, anyone—from nurses and midwives to nurse practitioners and obstetricians—can make the error in judgment or execution that leads to infant HIE. They can be liable when they make monumental mistakes at critical moments in how they respond to things like:
- Asphyxiation during childbirth
- The infant requiring resuscitation
- Incorrect readings for cord and fetal blood gases and venous pH levels
- The occurrence of a seizure
- An indication of injury in the brain MRI
- Any abnormality in the infant’s reflexes, activity, and tone
What is the statute of limitations for Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)?
How long you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit varies depending on the state where your child was born. Each state has its own laws that apply in these cases, including a statute of limitations, a statute of repose, and the possibility of tolling for minors. Your attorney can help you understand the deadlines that apply in your case.
Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Glossary Terms
- Placenta Previa – the opening of the uterus is blocked by the placenta, preventing normal delivery of an infant.
- Apgar Scores – A point system for measuring an infant’s physical condition based on muscle tone, heart rate, skin coloration, respiratory effort, and response to stimulation. Highest possible score is 10.
- Therapeutic Hypothermia – A treatment for limiting brain damage and edema by applying cold to acute injuries.
When the doctor, medical team, or medical facility you entrusted with delivering your baby fails to perform their responsibilities, and your otherwise healthy baby comes into the world with all the burdens of HIE, you deserve compensation.
Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group to Connect With an Attorney Who Can Help
Let an Infant Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy lawyer represent your rights and see that you receive compensation for your economic losses, as well as your emotional losses. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today at 1-800-222-9529 to find a lawyer who can help with your case.