How you diagnose oxygen deprivation depends on the symptoms of the baby and the severity of the asphyxia. In mild oxygen deprivation cases, when the baby loses full oxygenation for a few seconds, a firm diagnosis may not be possible, and they may suffer no apparent ill effects. In moderate or severe cases, though, there are likely other indications that your child’s doctor should identify through close monitoring.
When there are symptoms of a problem during labor or delivery, such as the baby’s heart rate becoming irregular or dropping too low, your child’s doctor should order additional testing or close monitoring to rule out oxygen deprivation or other serious complications. Breathing concerns and low Apgar scores may also require a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for additional observation.
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Apgar Assessments May Provide Signs of Deprivation of Oxygen at Birth
In some cases, especially when the vital signs remain relatively stable, the first indication that a child may have experienced oxygen deprivation, or other complication, is their one-minute Apgar assessment. Apgar assessments, conducted at one minute and five minutes following birth, allow the care team to understand the baby’s overall health, including how they handled the delivery and how they adapt to the outside world.
These assessments look at how the baby is doing in five categories, including coloring, respiration, activity, reflexes, and pulse rate. Most healthy newborns score between a seven and a ten on these assessments, with a ten being the optimal score. A score of ten is rare.
Babies who experienced moderate or severe oxygen deprivation may score a six or below during the one-minute assessment. They are often blue or gray in color, with a weak or irregular pulse, weak movement and reflexes, and respiratory difficulties. Some may require resuscitation, ventilator support, supplemental oxygen, or other breathing assistance.
However, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is important that doctors do not determine they have a full understanding of the baby’s picture of health based on their Apgar scores alone. These organizations recommend using expanded Apgar testing that considers more factors and encourages additional testing and observation to identify “evidence of or a consequence of asphyxia.”
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Poor Apgar Scores Signal Further Testing for Oxygen Deprivation is Needed
How you diagnose oxygen deprivation is not necessarily through the initial signs that there may be a problem. Instead, these simply serve as indicators that more testing is necessary. If your child had a poor Apgar score at one minute after birth, they should have received additional support and treatment, as well as close observation and further testing.
By performing additional tests and diagnosing related conditions, often epilepsy or organ dysfunction, it becomes easier to see what happened and whether your child experienced oxygen deprivation or another serious delivery complication.
Your doctor may order testing that includes:
- Blood tests to check blood gas levels, identify reperfusion injuries, and more
- Medical imaging, often magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to look for brain damage
- Echocardiogram and/or electrocardiogram (ECG) to identify damaged areas of the heart
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) to diagnose suspected seizures
Babies who exhibit signs of possible oxygen deprivation or have other serious health concerns may go to the NICU for observation and additional testing. They may also receive therapeutic hypothermia and other treatments to reduce their brain damage during this time. The NICU has the most highly trained neonatal nurses and can provide the most advanced treatments for your child.
As the baby grows and develops, there may be other signs and symptoms that appear, in addition to complications and related medical conditions. In some cases, a baby may never receive a definitive diagnosis of oxygen deprivation. Still, they could have related conditions such as low vision, hearing loss, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, learning disabilities, and more.
Pursuing Damages Based on Your Child’s Birth Injuries
While having an oxygen deprivation diagnosis and knowing what led to your child’s complications and medical conditions can help, it may not be necessary to pursue a legal case. If your child received a related condition diagnosis, a birth injury attorney can build a case based on that. This could include:
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental disabilities
- Learning delays
- Behavioral concerns
- Mental health concerns
- Low vision or hearing loss
- Intellectual disabilities
Most medical malpractice law firms represent families of birth injury victims based on contingency. Your family will not need to pay fees upfront if your attorney believes your child’s injuries occurred because of medical negligence. They will enlist the help of medical experts and take other steps to prove your case, seeking compensation to pay for your child’s treatment and care.
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Contact Us if Your Baby was Diagnosed with Oxygen Deprivation and Suffered Injuries
You can receive help for your child and family today by contacting the Birth Injury Lawyers Group. We provide free case evaluations and will discuss your child’s birth injuries with you. Call (800) 222-9529 to get started today.