Perinatal Asphyxia & Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

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Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain injury that occurs from lack of oxygen to an infant’s brain. Also known as perinatal asphyxia or intrapartum, this condition can lead to serious brain damage and permanent cognitive disabilities, development delays, mobility deficiencies, and even Cerebral palsy.

In many cases, health care providers are able to prevent oxygen deprivation by staying vigilant and applying the correct procedures. However, when doctors and nurses fail to be alert, babies can suffer serious injury within their first minutes—negatively impacting the rest of their lives.

What are the causes of HIE?

HIE is estimated to occur in about two to nine per 1,000 live births, which is why it is considered the most common type of neonatal encephalopathy (NE). Neonatal encephalopathy is defined as any disturbed neurological function in a newborn infant.

There is a wide range of potential causes that may result in birth asphyxia and HIE. The most common cause of HIE in full-term infants is intrauterine asphyxia from circulatory issues, such as placental artery clogging or placental abruption.

Other common causes of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy include:

  • Placental insufficiency
  • Compressed umbilical cord
  • Uterus rupture
  • Knots in the umbilical cord
  • A mother’s blood clotting disorders
  • Fetal-maternal hemorrhage
  • A mother’s extremely low blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Any delivery-related errors and issues, such as prolonged labor, umbilical cord complications, or premature delivery

With proper monitoring, doctors can detect whether a fetus or infant is at risk of HIE. There are various treatment options available—that must be administered immediately—to fight HIE and deliver oxygen to vital organs. If your doctor fails to diagnose HIE in a timely manner, your fetus or infant could suffer permanent and potentially fatal damage.

What is Perinatal Asphyxia?

Perinatal asphyxia, also known as birth asphyxia, is a condition which occurs because of oxygen deprivation. Oxygen flows to the fetus through the placenta and umbilical cord. If birth trauma during labor or delivery disrupts the transfer of oxygen to the fetus, brain injuries can occur

This oxygen deprivation may result in permanent brain damage as well as other physical issues, including damage to the kidneys, cardiovascular system, digestive system, and respiratory system. These health problems may have life-long consequences for a child.

What are the causes of birth asphyxia?

Common causes of perinatal asphyxia include the following:

  • Prolonged labor
  • Premature separation of the placenta from the uterus
  • Umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck
  • Placenta rupture or other issues with the placenta
  • Pre-eclampsia or eclampsia
  • A mother’s low or high blood pressure

In most cases, monitoring the vital signs of the fetus and the mother throughout labor and delivery will prevent perinatal asphyxia. Once doctors observe anything unusual, they will respond by performing an emergency cesarean section.

But when a doctor or nurse fails to monitor the vital signs of the fetus and the child suffers injury, it may be considered medical negligence. A child who suffers a brain injury is likely to require ongoing medical assistance for the remainder of their life.

Do I need to hire a lawyer?

Lifelong medical assistance is extremely costly. Fortunately, our Birmingham HIE lawyers at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton have a comprehensive understanding of state medical malpractice law to help you obtain the most favorable outcome possible. We understand that birth injuries result in serious and long-term consequences for both the injured child and that child’s family. We are ready to fight for you throughout the legal process while you focus all of your energy into taking care of your child.

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