What Is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)?

What Is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)? Labor and delivery is an exciting if nerve wracking time for any family, especially the mother. She is about to bring her child into this world, and her life will be forever changed by this new addition to her family. While many pregnancies and deliveries happen without incident, there are many ways in which the infant can be injured or their health jeopardized during the pregnancy, labor, and postnatal periods. It is critical not only for the obstetrical staff to be alert and aware of any symptoms that signify something has gone wrong, but for the parents to be cautious and watchful even after the child has been born and is home with them.

One of the most serious conditions that your baby can develop is called Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy or HIE. Without the proper treatment, your infant may suffer complications and injuries that affect them the rest of their life. According to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy is a dysfunction of the brain that occurs when the infant does not receive enough oxygen or blood flow during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or during the postnatal period. While health issues may not be present for all infants who develop HIE (or their symptoms may be mild), some children will suffer from permanent brain damage, which can affect their entire lives.

What are the long-term effects of HIE?

While most literature out there focuses on “developmental delay; cerebral palsy (motor impairment); epilepsy; or cognitive impairment,” oxygen deprivation can cause a host of serious issues, including organ damage, mobility problems, and fatal cardiorespiratory failure.

What causes HIE?

There are many causes of HIE. Some causes may be due to a pre-existing condition or health risk for the mother, some are caused by simple bad luck, and some may be the result of medical malpractice. According to Benioff Children’s Hospital, HIE can occur:

During pregnancy

  • Problems with blood flow to the placenta
  • Congenital fetal infections
  • Preeclampsia
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Severe fetal anemia
  • Maternal diabetes with vascular disease
  • Heart disease
  • Lung malformations

During labor and delivery

  • Umbilical cord problems
  • Excessive bleeding from the placenta
  • Abruption of the placenta or rupture of the uterus
  • Prolonged late stages of labor
  • Abnormal fetal position, such as the breech position
  • Very low blood pressure in the mother

During the postnatal period

  • Severe prematurity
  • Severe lung or heart disease
  • Very low blood pressure in the baby
  • Serious infections
  • Respiratory failure or cardiac arrest
  • Trauma to the brain or skull

Permanent disabilities of HIE are catastrophic, and will not only change the life of the child, but of the entire family as well.

How did medical malpractice cause my child’s HIE?

Many birth injuries could be avoided if the medical staff attending the pregnant mother were better prepared, more attentive, or better suited to meeting the health needs of the mother and her infant. When a parent discovers that their child’s injuries and disabilities were not caused by anything the parents themselves did or could prevent, but by the poor skill or negligence of the physicians, it only serves to show that those parents deserve justice.

Medical professionals attending the pregnant patient need to be able to:

  • Predict any possible complications that could cause birth injuries.
  • Respond to emergencies.
  • Recognize a high-risk pregnancy and prepare for it.
  • Use obstetrical tools such as forceps and vacuum extractors correctly.
  • Recognize and diagnose any conditions that the child is presenting.
  • Observe and attend to the mother and child during and after the delivery.
  • Prevent and treat infections.
  • Recognize when the infant or unborn fetus is in distress.
  • Handle complications such as umbilical cord complications and other problems with the infant.
  • Recognize when Cesarean is needed, and be able to perform it.
  • Observe the medications of both the newborn and mother.

Negligence in any of these aspects could lead to a birth injury that may cause HIE for the child. For instance, if the obstetrician does not notice that the umbilical cord is wrapped around the fetus’ neck, that could restrict oxygen flow to the baby’s brain, causing organ failure, brain damage, or even death. It is critical that the medical professional can recognize when the fetus or the recently born child is having difficulty breathing or receiving oxygen.

If your child suffers from long-term effects of HIE, and you believe it was due to the negligence of your obstetrical care providers, then you need to seek the advice of a Kennewick birth injury lawyer. Your child may possibly need a lot of expensive healthcare as they grow up, and you deserve to be compensated for your financial losses, and the emotional suffering you have to go through. You are not alone. We at Telaré Law will make sure that you do not have to spend too much time away from your child in pursuing a birth injury lawsuit. Let us take care of contacting your medical providers and filing the legal paperwork. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 509-737-8500 or use our contact page. If we don’t win, you don’t pay. Our offices are located in Kennewick and Richland, and we proudly serve the communities of Pasco, Walla Walla, the Tri-Cities, and all of Southeast Washington.