How long a baby can be deprived of oxygen before brain damage occurs depends on many factors. The body needs a certain oxygen level in the bloodstream to keep its vital organs functioning. The body can go a very short time without oxygen, thanks to having mechanisms that help preserve the brain and other vital organs. However, these processes cannot sustain a baby for more than a few minutes.
The damage occurs within a couple of minutes when a baby receives low oxygen levels or no oxygen. The effects of this damage depend on:
- The organs affected
- The length of time the baby is without oxygen
- How much oxygen the baby receives during this time
When oxygen deprivation affects a baby’s brain, they may suffer short-term effects, significant developmental delays, lifelong disabilities, or even death. The best way to prevent serious impairments and limitations is to prevent the deprivation of oxygen or restore the flow of oxygenated blood as soon as possible.
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Brain Damage Is Among the Most Significant Injuries Possible from Oxygen Deprivation
The deprivation of oxygen can damage any organ or organ system, but the brain is particularly susceptible. Damage to brain cells occurs because of a lack of oxygen and nutrients and because of reperfusion injuries. Within five minutes of the onset of oxygen deprivation, the baby is likely experiencing adverse effects within their brain. As more and more brain cells die, the baby may develop global delays, developmental disabilities, and other lasting impairments.
Related complications and medical conditions could include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Learning disabilities
- Developmental delays
- Behavioral concerns
- Emotional and mental disorders
- Low vision
- Hearing loss
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Effects of Oxygen Deprivation Are Irreversible
There is no clear answer for how long a baby can be deprived of oxygen before brain damage occurs. In some cases, damage can begin within seconds. According to the Journal of Neuroscience, research conducted on sheep shows that severe brain damage occurs within 30 minutes of the onset of limited oxygenation. This damage disrupts the sheep’s hippocampus, which is the area of the brain that deals with memory and learning.
The onset of serious damage likely occurs much sooner if there is no oxygen available to the baby’s organs, a condition known as anoxia. This may occur in human babies because of the placenta’s failure or a problem with a prolapsed or compressed umbilical cord.
Because the effects of hypoxia (limited oxygenation) or anoxia are irreversible and brain damage can occur within just a few minutes, prevention is the best option. When possible, the baby’s care team should recognize and address any risk factors for birth asphyxia before labor and delivery. If oxygen deprivation at birth does occur, they should identify the signs and act immediately to limit the length of time the baby is deprived of oxygen. This may limit the brain damage that occurs, as well as protect other vital organs.
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Your Child’s Brain Damage Diagnosis May Support Legal Action
If your baby experienced birth asphyxia or another type of oxygen deprivation caused by medical negligence or made worse by a negligent doctor or hospital, you might be able to build a medical malpractice case and hold the liable parties responsible. You could recover compensation for damages that include:
- Current and future medical bills, including for your child’s initial care, diagnostic testing, treatment, therapy, and other related expenses.
- Ongoing care costs for children who need additional care and support.
- Medical devices and tools
- Time missed from work for your child’s medical needs.
- Related expenses paid out of pocket
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Other tangible and intangible losses
You will work with a medical malpractice attorney in your state who pursues birth injury cases. This will include evaluating the specifics of your malpractice case, assigning liability, adhering to the applicable state laws, obtaining a medical expert who will assist with your claim, and seeking a settlement or financial award on your behalf. Your attorney will take all these steps based on a contingent fee. They will not require any advance fees from you. Instead, payment will come from the settlement or award they recover on your behalf if they recover compensation in your case.
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Contact Our Office Today to Learn More About Your Eligibility to Pursue a Malpractice Case
You can speak to a team member from the Birth Injury Lawyers Group to learn more about your case today. We provide complimentary case reviews to families whose children experienced oxygen deprivation and developed complications or a medical condition as a result. Let us evaluate your case for you and determine if you are eligible to take legal action in accordance with your state’s laws.
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