Medical Malpractice Related Causes of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

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Know the Causes of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy to Protect Your Rights 

Unfortunately, there are times when a baby suffers an injury during labor or delivery, leading to catastrophic consequences. Sometimes, effects from a birth injury may be mild, while there are times when these effects may be lifelong and permanent. Sometimes, a birth injury may occur despite the best medical interventions possible, while there are times when the injury could have been avoided entirely with proper care. One example of a catastrophic birth injury that leaves children with lasting effects is hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. There are a few causes of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, with almost all of them being due to medical malpractice.

This birth injury is quite often due to a medical practitioner deviating from the standard of care, causing harm to the newborn. When a birth injury is due to a medical provider’s error, it is considered to be medical malpractice.  The medical malpractice to a newborn is a form of birth injury which could be serious or catastrophic for the infant’s entire life.  Always ask for help from a medical malpractice attorney in Minnesota or Oregon when you have been injured due to medical malpractice or where a loved one is injured due to a birth injury.  This is particularly true because many of the causes of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy are due to medical malpractice or birth injuries.

Causes of HIE Due to Medical Malpractice

As mentioned above, the causes of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy are often due to medical malpractice. This is because this is an often preventable condition if both mother and baby receive the appropriate care. Examples as to how HIE can be caused by medical malpractice include the following: 

  • Failure to identify and respond to signs of fetal distress during labor and delivery, leading to brain injury
  • Failing to identify when a c-section is appropriate and a vaginal birth is unsafe, leading to injury 
  • Mismanagement of complications that can cause HIE, such as umbilical cord prolapse, problems with the placenta or uterus, preeclampsia, stroke, extreme hypotension, or infection
  • Delay in performing a c-section when a complication arises, necessitating a c-section for safe delivery of the baby
  • Improper use of labor inducing drugs
  • Failing to identify that there may be cephalopelvic disproportion prior to delivery, which can allow for the complete avoidance of a potential injury leading to HIE
  • Failure to intervene when a mother is experiencing arrested or prolonged labor
  • Failure to identify problems with the umbilical cord
  • Vaginal delivery of a baby who is breech or transverse
  • Failing to properly monitor both mother and baby during labor and delivery
  • Failing to properly monitor contraction patterns, leading to missed signs of fetal distress

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Explained

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy is as mentioned above, a type of birth injury sustained during labor and delivery. Rarely, it can occur during pregnancy. Hypoxia refers to an interruption of oxygen to the brain while ischemia refers to a restriction in blood flow. Encephalopathy refers to damage that occurs in the brain due to injury. When there is an interruption of oxygen and blood flow to the brain, brain cells die, resulting in damage. This type of birth injury is also considered to be life-threatening, and if the baby survives they will most likely suffer some degree of neurologic injury

Medical Complications Leading to Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

There are some complications that can occur during labor and delivery which can lead to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is the complications are not properly managed. Examples of complications that can occur with the potential of causing HIE include the following:

  • Umbilical cord complications (i.e. umbilical cord prolapse, nuchal cord, etc)
  • Placental abruption
  • Extremely low maternal blood pressure
  • Uterine Rupture
  • Preeclampsia
  • Stroke
  • Infections (maternal)
  • Issues with placental blood circulation

Severity of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

Babies diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy will suffer some degree of deficit due to brain damage sustained. This can range from mild to severe. Symptoms of HIE severity include the following:

Mild Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy – Babies with mild HIE are likely to be very irritable, often excessively crying. They may have difficulties with feeding and may excessively sleep. Additionally, on assessment a physician may note abnormal tendon reflexes and muscle stiffness. Babies with mild HIE are likely to make a near full recovery, but may suffer some degree of deficit

Moderate Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy – Babies with moderate HIE often will exhibit absent reflexes along with a lack of proper muscle tone. These babies may have intermittent episodes of apnea along with the possibility of seizures. Babies with moderate HIE will not attempt to grasp anything, and will have an impaired sucking reflex

Severe Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy – This is the worst type of HIE as these children will be severely impaired for life. Babies with severe HIE will have severe seizures, increasing in frequency. They will not respond to stimuli. Babies with severe HIE often cannot regulate their heart rate, blood pressure, or breathing and are at risk for cardiorespiratory failure which is often fatal. Additionally, these babies will be extremely hypotonic, and will have dilated pupils with abnormal eye movement and control

Lifelong Needs of a Child With HIE

Sadly, babies with HIE will often need additional assistance throughout their lifetime. Some children may have very limited function due to severe HIE, necessitating total care with many medical issues. Children with mild, moderate, or severe HIE will often suffer from learning disabilities, developmental delays, and may need specialized care.  This means the causes of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy being medical malpractice also result in a lifetime of injury.

Is There a Treatment for HIE?

There is currently one approved treatment for hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, with research being done to hopefully improve treatment options. The current approved therapy for HIE is therapeutic hypothermia. As long as medical providers identify that HIE has occurred and initiate treatment immediately, there is a chance or minimizing the long term damage as well as slowing down the cellular death and damage that is occurring as a result of the injury. 

This must be initiated within the first few hours after birth for it to be effective. While this therapy is effective to some extent for many babies with HIE, babies who suffered from severe HIE will still likely need lifelong assistance. 

Causes of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy are Routinely Due to Medical Malpractice

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.

This blog is considered advertising and does not constitute any client-attorney privilege and does not offer any advice or opinion on any legal matter. This blog was drafted by Digital Mixology a digital marketing, Public Relations, advertising, and content marketing firm located in Philadelphia, PA.

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