Complications Prenatally and During Labor and Delivery Leading to Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

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Oregon HIE Lawyer Explains Complications Prenatally and During Labor and Delivery

While most babies are born in the absence of complications, there are times when babies may suffer injuries. These injuries may be mild, moderate or severe and may or may not lead to life-long consequences. While there are some catastrophic injuries that happen at the fault of no one, there are times when birth injuries can be entirely preventable. It is when they are entirely preventable that they are considered to be medical malpractice. One example of a catastrophic birth injury that is often caused by medical malpractice is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE).  Complications prenatally and during labor and delivery can cause HIE.

What is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?

As mentioned above, HIE is a catastrophic injury that most often occurs during the labor and delivery process. This type of injury occurs to the deprivation of blood and oxygen to the infant’s brain. Because of this, HIE causes loss of oxygen (hypoxia) and loss of blood flow (ischemia). This hypoxia and ischemia cause brain damage as result. Often, the brain damage is significant and catastrophic. Brain damage can really vary from infant to infant, depending on how long the infant was deprived of oxygenated blood and where the brain damage occurring within the infant’s brain. Given how catastrophic this birth injury is, it is always recommended that HIE cases be reviewed by legal counsel to determine if the injury could have been prevented. 

Complications During the Prenatal Period and During Labor and Delivery Leading to Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

There are many different reasons for the occurrence of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, but most commonly these include the following:

  • Very low maternal blood pressure during labor and delivery
  • Complications due to anesthesia
  • Cardiac Arrest
  • Mothers with known respiratory or cardiac diseases that affect the respiratory organs and muscles
  • Aneurysm rupture
  • Trauma during the delivery of the baby
  • Placental insufficiency
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Umbilical cord compression 
  • Umbilical knots
  • Uterine rupture
  • Placental abruption
  • Preeclampsia
  • Eclampsia
  • Undiagnosed gestational diabetes, leading to other complications

Many of these complications prenatally and during labor and delivery can cause HIE.

Symptoms of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

There are many signs and symptoms that may indicate that a baby has suffered from HIE. Signs and symptoms of HIE include the following:

  • Apgar score of less than 3 (low score)
  • Low heart rate
  • No heart rate
  • Blue skin (cyanosis)
  • Irregular or slowed breathing
  • Stained meconium – this indicates that the baby was in distress during the labor and delivery
  • Seizures
  • Low muscle tone
  • Absent reflexes
  • Diminished reflexes
  • Acidosis

These are just a few of the many signs that a newborn has suffered from Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy.

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Treatment

Currently, there is really only one treatment for HIE that has been FDA approved. Hypothermic therapy (cooling treatment) is used in an attempt to try to minimize or reverse the degree of brain damage that the baby has experienced. If HIE is suspected, cooling therapy should be initiated. Failure to initiate cooling therapy within six hours of the injury will greatly harm the baby as the cooling therapy will no longer be effective. 

Consequences of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

As mentioned above, HIE is a catastrophic diagnosis that often causes life-long effects. Consequences of HIE may include the following:

  • Hearing impairment
  • Visual impairment
  • Speech impairment
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Learning disabilities
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Sensory impairment
  • Seizures
  • Mental health disorders
  • Behavioral problems
  • Death
  • Speech delay
  • Brain hemorrhage

These complications vary in degree from child to child, depending on the amount of brain damage that has occurred, along with whether or not the baby was able to receive cooling treatment within the specified time frame. Children who suffered from severe HIE may never be able to walk, talk or function independently. They may need complete care for their entire lives. This is incredibly devastating and also incredibly costly for the family. If HIE was caused by errors made by the physician or other healthcare providers, this is medical malpractice and the family would be entitled to compensation to cover the expenses that their child will need for their lifetime. 

Medical Malpractice Related Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

While as mentioned above, complications can arise and HIE may occur even if the physician does everything right, there are times when the physician fails to deliver the standard of care, leading to serious harm to the infant. Regardless of intent, if this occurs the provider should be held responsible for their actions leading to serious harm to the infant. No child should have their lives forever altered due to a healthcare provider’s negligence. Many complications can occur as the result of mismanagement of other conditions or complications. Some complications can be avoided entirely with timely diagnoses and management. Examples as to how medical malpractice in regard to mismanagement of complications can result in HIE include the following:

  • Failing to diagnose gestational diabetes
  • Failing to diagnoses eclampsia or preeclampsia
  • Failing to recognize signs of fetal distress 
  • Failing to properly manage gestational diabetes
  • Mishandling of the baby during labor and delivery
  • Inappropriate fetal heart rate monitoring
  • Allowing prolonged or arrested labor to occur
  • Failing to perform a c-section when indicated
  • Failing to perform an emergency c-section when indicated
  • Failing to recognize that the baby will not fit through the birth canal due to cephalopelvic disproportion 
  • Failing to identify nuchal cord on ultrasound if ultrasound is performed
  • Failing to identify umbilical cord compression, prolapse, or cord rupture
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Failing to intervene in the setting of placental abruption
  • Failing to intervene when the mother’s blood pressure is too low, leading to brain damage to the infant
  • Failing to manage a delivery properly for a woman who has experienced cephalopelvic disproportion or shoulder dystocia (i.e. opting for a c-section before labor has started)
  • Failing to perform a c-section prior to labor for a woman with known cardiac or respiratory diseases that may lead to maternal or fetal distress during labor

These are just a few of the many ways that mismanaged complications can lead to hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. 

Did Your HIE Baby Suffer Complications Prenatally and During Labor and Delivery? Call Us

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, Milwaukie, 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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