Baby With Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy – A Devastating Birth Injury Often Due to Medical Malpractice

medical malpractice lawyer Bend OR

Know Your Rights After Your Baby With Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy is Injured in Oregon

The birth of a child is usually a joyous event for all involved. It marks the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of the mother and father to be. While it is typically a joyous event, sadly there are times when things go wrong during the birth that lead to complications that may be life altering. This is devastating in and of itself, but is even more catastrophic when the complication leads to a devastating birth injury that could have been prevented. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is an example of a catastrophic birth injury that can occur as the result of a healthcare provider’s error. When preventable birth injuries like this occur as the result of a physician or other healthcare provider’s error, this is considered to be medical malpractice.  Always ask for help if your baby with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is injured in Oregon.

Birth Injuries Explained in Oregon

Birth injuries are injuries that occur to the infant during the labor and delivery process, or shortly thereafter. There are many types of birth injuries, some more serious than others. Some types of birth injuries may cause permanent consequences for the newborn and their family, while other birth injuries may resolve and therefore are only temporary. Examples of birth injuries include fractures, cerebral palsy, bruising, brain damage, paralysis, brachial plexus injury, facial paralysis, scarring, hemorrhage, or nerve damage amongst many others. Not all birth injuries are due to medical malpractice, but there are many instances in which birth injuries could have been prevented with proper medical care and adherence to hospital protocols as well as the standards of care that should be followed. 

What is a Baby with Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE, is a type of birth injury that causes the newborn significant brain damage. This type of brain injury occurs during labor and delivery of the baby and is caused by the baby not receiving enough oxygen (hypoxia) and blood flow (ischemia) to the brain. This type of brain injury can cause catastrophic damage to the infant’s brain, often altering their lives forever. The type of deficits the newborn may have depends on the severity of the damage as well as the area of the brain that has been damaged. There is treatment for hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy that may reverse or prevent brain damage, but infants often face some degree of brain damage. There are times when HIE is not the fault of a healthcare provider, but often HIE is medical malpractice related. 

What are the Causes of HIE?

There are many potential causes of HIE, including the following: 

  • Placental abruption
  • Uterine rupture
  • Umbilical knots
  • Placental insufficiency
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Cord prolapse
  • Trauma that occurs during delivery
  • Cardiac Arrest
  • Umbilical cord compression
  • Aneurysm Rupture

These are just a few of the many potential causes of HIE. 

HIE Signs and Symptoms

Babies with HIE may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

  • Cyanosis (blue) tinged skin
  • Seizures
  • Low heart rate
  • Absent heart rate
  • Diminished or absent reflexes
  • Low muscle tone
  • Acidosis
  • Absent, irregular, depressed or slow breathing
  • Stained meconium, indicating fetal distress occurred during labor and delivery
  • Apgar score of 3 or less, indicative of a problem with the infant

Treatment for a Baby With Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

Therapeutic hypothermia treatment is the treatment for babies with HIE. This involves cooling the baby with the use of a cooling cap or cooling blanket to try to reverse or slow down the brain damage that is occurring. This procedure usually lasts for 72 hours. There is great benefit for the infant when this treatment is used, but it must be used within the first 6 hours after the brain injury has occurred for it to be effective. 

Additional treatments for HIE include CPR, seizure medications, intubation, ventilation, and medications to control blood pressure, heart rate and heart function. The gold standard of treatment remains therapeutic hypothermia treatment as it gives the newborn the best possible change to have as little brain damage as possible. 

Long Term Effects of HIE

There are many possible long-term effects of HIE. Long term effects of HIE include the following:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Blindness
  • Vision impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Epilepsy
  • Seizure disorders
  • Speech delays or disorders
  • Motor delays
  • Developmental delays
  • Behavioral problems
  • Learning disabilities
  • Difficulty with or inability to ambulate

Medical Malpractice Related HIE

As mentioned above, there are instances when HIE cannot be prevented. However, there are many cases of HIE which are caused by a physician or other healthcare provider’s error. Examples of medical malpractice related causes of HIE include the following:

  • Delay in intervention with a cesarean birth when there is fetal or maternal distress
  • Failing to identify signs of fetal distress
  • Opting for a vaginal birth when a c-section is indicated
  • Failure to respond to fetal distress
  • Failure to properly monitor contractions, thus missing severe variability or decelerations 
  • Allowing prolonged or arrested labor to continue without intervention
  • Failing to monitor fetal heart rate during labor and delivery
  • Failing to treat a baby with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy appropriately and in a timely manner
  • Overuse of labor inducing drugs (i.e. Pitocin), leading to complications such as uterine tachysystole (overstimulation of the uterus which can lead to a lack of oxygen to the baby)
  • Anesthesia mistakes
  • Mismanaging complications such as issues with the placenta, uterus or umbilical cord
  • Failing to recognize prior to a delivery that the baby will not be able to fit through the birth canal (cephalopelvic disproportion)
  • Allowing excessive contractions to occur without intervention
  • Failure to diagnose hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy until it is too late for the newborn to receive therapeutic hypothermia therapy

These are just some of the many ways that negligence can lead to HIE. 

Ask Our Lawyer if Your Baby With Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Was Injured in Oregon

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.

Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton,  Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles,  St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.

We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.

For a free case evaluation


(541) 385-1999 in Bend, Oregon
(503) 479-3646 in Portland, Oregon
(612) 444-3374 in Minnesota

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