Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy in a Baby: Portland Birth Injury Lawyer in Oregon

Understanding Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy in a Baby From Our Portland Birth Injury Lawyer 

The birth of a baby is a moment to be celebrated. For mothers and fathers to be, it is perhaps the most joyous moments in their lives. While most births occur without any complications, unfortunately, there are times when the mother or baby are harmed during labor and delivery. Some complications are unavoidable and are not the fault of anyone, but there are sadly times when a baby suffers at the hands of a physician or other healthcare provider. When avoidable complications occur that cause harm to the baby, this is considered to be medical malpractice. One complication that can occur due to medical malpractice is hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Babies who suffer from HIE due to an injury at birth often face a lifetime of challenges. HIE is often catastrophic in nature and can seriously disable the newborn.  Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy in a baby can be a very serious issue for a family.

What is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE is a type of birth injury. This type of injury occurs due to the newborn being deprived of oxygen. HIE causes a loss of blood flow (ischemia) and well as a loss of oxygen (hypoxia) to the brain, resulting in significant brain damage. Brain damage due to this injury is often irreversible. There is a treatment that may help HIE babies, but treatment must occur immediately after birth for it to be effective. 

The extent of brain damage the newborn has depends on how long the baby suffered loss of oxygen and blood flow, and where in the brain the brain damage occurred. While there are instances of HIE that may not be due to negligence, there are many cases of HIE that are due to negligence and thus should be investigated further. 

What are the Causes of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Many complications can occur during labor and delivery, leading to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Examples of causes of this condition include the following:

  • Umbilical cord compression
  • Shoulder dystocia 
  • Umbilical cord prolapse
  • Placental insufficiency
  • Rupture of an aneurysm
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Umbilical knots
  • Trauma during delivery
  • Uterine rupture

As mentioned above, some of these cases that may lead to HIE are avoidable, while others are unavoidable. As HIE is a life-changing, often devastating diagnosis, it is encouraged that the cause of your child’s HIE diagnosis be investigated to the fullest extent to determine if HIE could have been prevented. 

What are Symptoms that Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Have Occurred? 

Babies born with HIE may present with obvious indications that something is wrong. Signs and symptoms a newborn may present with that may indicate they have been affected by HIE include the following:

  • Low or no heart rate
  • Cyanosis (blue skin)
  • Low Apgar score (less than 3)
  • Absent breathing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Slowed breathing
  • Stained meconium, indicating fetal distress occurred during labor and delivery
  • Seizures
  • Low muscle tone
  • Absent or diminished reflexes
  • Acidosis

What are the Treatments for Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Unfortunately, treatment options for this condition are limited. However, if HIE is suspected or confirmed at birth, babies often greatly benefit from cooling treatment. This type of treatment can be effective in reducing the amount of brain damage that has occurred. It must occur within six hours to be effective. 

What Possible Complications May Occur as the Result of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Children with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy may face a slew of lifelong disabilities and complications, including the following: 

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hearing impairment
  • Vision impairment
  • Speech delay
  • Speech impairment
  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Sensory impairment
  • Fetal stroke
  • Developmental disabilities 
  • Learning disabilities 
  • Seizures
  • Nutrition impairment
  • Mental health disorders
  • Death

These are just some of the many complications that may occur as the result of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy can affect each person individually. It often has catastrophic consequences, but some children may suffer from learning disabilities only while others may experience many complications. Children with severe brain damage due to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy may never be able to walk, talk, or feed themselves. They may need care for life, which sadly is quite costly, not to mention devastating. If your child has HIE due to medical malpractice, compensation should be received so you and your loved ones do not have to face the financial burden that HIE complications may incur. 

How Can Medical Malpractice Cause my Child’s Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy? 

This type of birth injury is due to a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain, as mentioned above. This injury occurs during the birthing process. While not all cases of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy are avoidable, there are many cases in which HIE is due to a physician or other health care provider’s error. While the error may not be intentional, it still is going to forever alter the lives of the newborn and their family. Causes of medical malpractice related hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy include the following: 

  • Failing to treat a baby with known or suspected HIE, leading to permanent, catastrophic, and irreversible brain damage
  • Failing to respond to signs of fetal distress during labor and delivery 
  • Failing to identify umbilical cord compression, cord rupture or prolapse
  • Failing to identify when a baby will not fit through the birth canal (cephalopelvic disproportion) – identifying this prior to labor and delivery can completely eliminate the chance of the baby becoming lodged in the birth canal, leading to deprivation of oxygen and blood flow to the brain
  • Mismanagement of complications or issues surrounding the placenta or uterus
  • Failing to identify prior to delivery that the baby is not in the right position to allow for a vaginal birth
  • Opting for a vaginal birth when a c-section is indicated
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Improper monitoring of the baby
  • Improper monitoring of the mother
  • Misuse of Pitocin or other labor inducing drugs, leading to brain damage
  • Failing to intervene when the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck, leading to blood flow and oxygen deprivation
  • Inappropriate fetal heart rate monitoring 
  • Allowing for prolonged or arrested labor to continue

These are just a few of the many ways in which a physician or other healthcare provider may have caused your child’s hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. 

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy in a Baby is Dangerous and Can be Deadly

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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