What Is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy? | Charles Thronson

What Is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?

October 1, 2019

When an infant’s brain fails to receive sufficient blood and oxygen, it can result in a dangerous condition called Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy or HIE, which requires immediate medical attention. HIE occurs in about two to three full-term births in every 1,000. According to Hope for HIE, an infant with HIE may present immediately with the following symptoms, among others:

  • Low or absent heart rate;
  • Slow, depressed, irregular, or absent breathing;
  • Acidosis or excessively acidic condition of body fluids or tissues;
  • Seizures;
  • Low muscle tone;
  • Blue or extremely pale skin color; or
  • Depressed reflexes.

However, severe HIE may result in many serious symptoms that present later, as the infant grows to childhood. These additional symptoms may include developmental delays, epilepsy, cognitive issues, motor skill development delays, and neurodevelopment delays.

HIE may be the result of a doctor’s failure to recognize the symptoms of HIE or its precipitating cause, such as uterine rupture. If your child was diagnosed with HIE, you should consult with an experienced attorney that focuses in the practice of birth injury litigation.

Causes of HIE

Oxygen deprivation leading to HIE can have one of many medical causes. Acute maternal hypotension, cardiac complications, poorly functioning infant lungs, fetal stroke are all possible events that lead to oxygen deprivation. However, deprivation may also be caused by injuries such as intrapartum hemorrhage, prolapsed cords, placental abruption, and uterine ruptures.

Uterine ruptures occur when there is a tear that occurs in the wall of the uterus during labor or delivery. These are life-threatening injuries for both the mother and the infant. At its most severe presentation, it can be a complete rupture, causing the baby to spill into the mother’s abdominal cavity.

The majority of uterine ruptures occur at the site of a previous C-section because a scar is most likely to give way under the stress of contractions. Other kinds of uterine surgery, such as surgery to remove fibroids, may also increase the risk factors for uterine ruptures. Symptoms of such a rupture during pregnancy include vaginal bleeding, abdominal or chest pain, or falling blood pressure. An abnormal fetal heart rate or pattern may also be an indicator of a uterine rupture, as these are indicative of oxygen deprivation. If those any of those risk factors are present, doctors should be aware and have a medical protocol prepared accordingly in order to deal with a possible rupture.

If a uterine rupture occurs, there are medical protocols that must be implemented according to accepted standards, and failure to meet these accepted standards might constitute malpractice for which medical professionals may be held liable. For example, the baby is usually immediately delivered by emergency cesarean section, and if the damage to the uterine wall is extensive, a hysterectomy may be needed. Proper fetal monitoring, and proper testing to determine pre-existing medical conditions, in addition to the presence of proper staff during delivery, are some of the accepted medical standards that are often overlooked, resulting in malpractice.

Additionally, there are diagnostic tools available for doctors to be able to determine whether HIE has occurred. HIE may be confirmed by a CT scan, MRI, EEG, EKB, or ultrasounds. Therapeutic hypothermia, or cooling, may reduce death and disability if the HIE is confirmed as early as possible after birth.

If you have a child that suffered from HIE during delivery, you may be able to obtain compensation especially if your child has begun showing long-term disabilities as a result. Charles H. Thronson, Attorney at Law, is a seasoned advocate with years of experience in pursuing claims against medical professionals for birth injuries in Utah. Do not hesitate to contact our firm today for an initial consultation by calling our office or by completing our online form.

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