What is HIE? Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Bend, Oregon Explains

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Understanding What is HIE: Dangerous Birth Injury Explained by Our Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Bend, Oregon

At a time when parents should be welcoming new life, some parents must cope with the unfortunate circumstance where a baby is injured during either labor or delivery. These injuries can range from temporary and mild to permanent and severe. While sometimes these injuries are unavoidable, other times they are caused by a doctor’s negligence. One such birth injury is hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, commonly referred to as HIE. Our medical malpractice lawyer knows that many people ask what is HIE and how it can be caused by a doctor’s negligence when their baby has some type of birth injury.


Here at Kuhlman Law, we know that HIE can be caused when a doctor does not follow an accepted standard of care during labor or delivery. This can result in injury to the baby such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. A birth injury such as this is known as medical malpractice.  HIE caused by medical malpractice can result in significant and lifelong injury to a newborn baby. If your baby is injured in this way, you should consult with an experienced HIE lawyer in Bend, Oregon like ours. Call to schedule a FREE consultation or case evaluation to learn more about your legal rights. A lawyer can help determine whether you are entitled to compensation as a result of medical malpractice.

What is HIE?

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is a brain injury that is caused during labor, delivery, or less commonly during the pregnancy.  It involves three components that are relevant to its diagnosis:

H for Hypoxic

In order to understand what is HIE, this type of main injury caused by the condition is important to know. A hypoxic injury refers to damage or harm caused by a lack of oxygen supply to the body’s tissues or organs. Oxygen is essential for the proper functioning of cells, and when it is insufficient or completely cut off, it can lead to various degrees of injury or cell death.

Hypoxic injuries can have serious implications, including brain damage, organ dysfunction, and potential long-term disabilities. Medical interventions focus on addressing the underlying cause, improving oxygenation, and providing supportive care to mitigate further damage and aid in recovery.

I for Ischemic


The answer to what is HIE revolves around the blood too. An ischemic injury refers to damage or harm caused by an inadequate blood supply to tissues or organs, resulting in reduced oxygen and nutrient delivery. Ischemia occurs when there is a disruption or blockage in the blood vessels supplying a particular area, leading to a lack of blood flow.

Ischemic injuries can occur in various parts of the body, but they are commonly associated with conditions affecting the heart and brain. The two primary types of ischemic injuries are myocardial ischemia and cerebral ischemia. However, only relevant to a birth injury caused by HIE, cerebral ischemic is what is commonly caused by medical malpractice in Bend, Oregon.

Cerebral ischemia refers to insufficient blood flow to the brain, leading to a lack of oxygen and nutrients. It can occur due to the blockage of cerebral arteries, which can be caused by a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or a temporary disruption of blood flow (transient ischemic attack or TIA). Cerebral ischemia can result in brain cell damage or death and can lead to various neurological symptoms, including weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking, and changes in consciousness.

For a baby, cerebral ischemia can be caused by excessive pressure, decelerations, improper use of vacuum extraction tools, and other devices or failures to treat compression on the baby. The consequences of an ischemic injury depend on the duration and severity of the blood flow restriction. Rapid restoration of blood flow is crucial to minimize damage and promote recovery.


E is for Encephalopathy

In answering what is HIE, it is important to understand the brain’s role in this condition. It is quite possibly the most important component. Encephalopathy refers to a broad term used to describe a group of brain disorders or diseases that result in dysfunction or damage to the brain. It is characterized by a wide range of symptoms, including alterations in cognition, behavior, and neurological function. Encephalopathy can be acute or chronic, and its severity can vary from mild to severe.

The most common type during labor and delivery which can cause a birth injury is HIA. This is a severe lack of oxygen or reduced blood flow to the brain can result in encephalopathy. This can occur due to conditions like stroke, cardiac arrest, or respiratory failure. It can also happen during the labor and delivery process, where a baby is being compressed, has excessive decelerations, or there is an umbilical cord prolapse.

It’s important to note that encephalopathy is a complex condition with various underlying causes, and diagnosis and management should be carried out by qualified healthcare professionals.


Putting it Together: Understanding HIE as a Birth Injury in Bend, Oregon

Now answering what is HIE, it all comes together. HIE happens when the blood flow to the brain of an infant or newborn is interrupted and they do not receive enough oxygenated blood. The lack of oxygenated blood flow, if not treated properly, can result in brain damage caused by brain cells dying from hypoxia (or lack of oxygen).  In severe cases, HIE can cause further impairments such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

 Thus, HIE is a medical term used to describe a condition characterized by brain dysfunction or damage resulting from a combination of insufficient oxygen supply (hypoxia) and reduced blood flow (ischemia) to the brain. HIE typically occurs during or shortly after a period of oxygen deprivation, such as during birth or following a cardiac arrest.

In HIE, the brain cells are deprived of oxygen and nutrients, leading to cellular injury and potential long-term neurological consequences. The severity of HIE can vary, ranging from mild to severe, depending on the duration and degree of oxygen and blood flow disruption.

The term “hypoxic” refers to the inadequate oxygen supply, which can occur due to various reasons, including reduced oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia) or impaired oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood (e.g., due to anemia). “Ischemic” refers to the reduced blood flow, often caused by an obstruction or blockage in the blood vessels supplying the brain.

Diagnosis and management of HIE involve various medical interventions, including resuscitation and stabilization during the acute phase, monitoring of vital signs, and supportive care to maintain stable oxygenation and blood flow. Therapeutic hypothermia (cooling the body to reduce brain inflammation) is often employed as a treatment option in select cases to minimize brain damage. Rehabilitation therapies, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, may be recommended to support the child’s development and functional abilities.

How Does Medical Malpractice Cause HIE?

As previously mentioned, HIE most often occurs due to medical malpractice during labor or delivery.  If the mother and infant receive timely medical care, HIE can usually be prevented.  There are several ways that medical malpractice can cause HIE, including:

  • Failing to recognize the mother has low blood pressure, resulting in injury to the infant
  • Failing to respond to problems with the umbilical cord, resulting in the baby receiving too little oxygen
  • Failing to perform or delay in performing a c-section after a vaginal birth has become dangerous
  • Failing to properly monitor the warning signs of fetal distress, including blood pressure, irregular contractions, or prolonged labor
  • Improper use of medication during labor
  • Vaginal birth of an infant that is breech or transverse

How Severe is HIE?

Infants with HIE will suffer from some amount of impairment.  Symptoms resulting from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy can range from mild to severe:

Mild HIE – Infants diagnosed with mild HIE can be reactive and irritable.  They may sleep and cry in excess and have trouble with feeding.  Other symptoms can include abnormal muscle stiffness and tendon reflexes.  Less than 5% of babies with mild HIE will have a severe disability.

Moderate HIE – Infants diagnosed with moderate HIE are noninteractive.  They do not attempt to grab things and have an underdeveloped sucking reflex.  Between 25 and 75% of babies with moderate HIE will have a severe disability, including the possibility of seizures, and are at greater risk of early death.

Severe HIE – Infants diagnosed with severe HIE are the most seriously impacted and will likely have lifelong injuries.  They will experience seizures, be wholly nonreactive, and have difficult regulating bodily functions related to blood flow.  Over 75% of babies with severe HIE will have a severe disability and are at high risk of early death.

What Particular Needs will a Child with HIE Have?

Our birth injury and HIE lawyer knows that this type of injury is very dangerous and devastating. HIE can lead to a range of neurological symptoms and complications, such as developmental delays, cognitive impairment, motor deficits, seizures, and in severe cases, cerebral palsy or intellectual disability. Children born with HIE will likely need extra care throughout their lifetimes, which is why parents should always ask what is HIE when they believe they have some issues with the birth of a child.

Any child suffering from HIE is at risk of developing a learning disability, experiencing developmental delay, and requiring additional specialized and lifelong care and treatment.  In severe cases, children can require around the clock care due to their multiple medical issues.  Far from only affecting a child at birth, a physician’s medical malpractice can result in lifelong and permanent injuries.

Can HIE be treated?

HIE requires prompt medical attention, and the treatment approach may vary based on the specific circumstances and individual patient characteristics. Multidisciplinary care involving neonatologists, pediatric neurologists, and other specialists is typically involved in the management of HIE. Anytime a provider mentions HIE, parents should ask what is HIE and how it can affect their child.

Although research is constantly happening to improve treatment options, there is currently only one treatment for HIE. That treatment is called therapeutic hypothermia.  Therapeutic hypothermia, also known as cooling therapy lowers the infant’s body temperature to prevent further brain damage from occurring.  Unfortunately, the treatment must be performed when the child is less than 6 hours old.  This is part of why a physician’s failure to recognize the signs of HIE can be so devastating that it can be birth injury and medical malpractice.

Still Not Sure What is HIE and How Our Birth Injury Lawyer Can Help You? Call Our Medical Malpractice Lawyer for Help


If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or wrongfully 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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