What is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Posted on September 20th, 2019
By Steven Gursten
What is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain injury caused by an inadequate flow of oxygen to a newborn’s brain. It is also known as birth asphyxia, perinatal asphyxia, and neonatal encephalopathy. While treatment options are available, immediate medical intervention is often necessary to mitigate the effects of HIE, and many newborns will experience lifelong complications.

7 Important Facts about Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy for New Parents

1. Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy is a Preventable Medical Condition.

In most cases, HIE is preventable. With today’s medical technology, fetal oxygen levels can be monitored constantly during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and doctors can intervene if a fetus is exhibiting signs of hypoxia (oxygen deprivation).

2. Failure to Monitor or Intervene May Constitute Medical Malpractice.

Due to the fact that the tools and information required to prevent HIE are now readily available, failure to adequate monitor a fetus’s oxygen level or to intervene in order to prevent HIE may constitute medical malpractice. If your child’s condition could have been prevented, then your health care provider may be legally responsible for your family’s losses.

3. There are Maternal Risk Factors and Warning Signs of Which Your Doctor Should Be Aware.

During pregnancy, your doctor should also be monitoring for material risk factors and warning signs for HIE. Failure to timely diagnose a condition that is likely to lead to HIE is another potential form of medical malpractice. Maternal risk factors and warning signs include:

  • Acute maternal hypotension
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Heart disease
  • Low oxygen level in the blood
  • Maternal infections
  • Pinching of the umbilical cord
  • Placental abruption
  • Preeclampsia
  • Uterine rupture

4. The Consequences of Failure to Prevent, Diagnose, or Treat HIE Can Be Severe.

While hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is itself a potentially-dangerous medical condition, newborns who are diagnosed with HIE can be at risk for a variety of other conditions and long-term complications as well. These include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and other cognitive and neurodevelopmental impairments.

5. The Effects of HIE Can Worsen Over Time.

Although HIE is commonly described as a birth injury, it is important to understand that its effects can worsen over time. Some children may not begin to exhibit symptoms of HIE for weeks, months, or even years after experiencing hypoxia due to a medical error.

6. The Financial Costs of HIE Can Also Be Severe.

The costs of emergency and long-term medical care for a child diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, cerebral palsy, and other related medical conditions can be substantial. While health insurance may cover some of these costs, families will often be forced to pay out of pocket for their children’s care.

7. New Parents Need to Be Cognizant of the Symptoms of HIE.

Due to the risks associated with HIE and the risk of medical mistakes during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, all new parents should familiarize themselves with the symptoms of HIE. These symptoms include:

  • Blood disorders
  • Feeding problems
  • Heart, kidney, liver, or lung problems
  • Hypertension
  • Lack of reactivity to sights and sounds
  • Low heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Weak breathing

If your child is exhibiting symptoms of HIE, you should see a doctor immediately. If your child has been diagnosed with HIE, cerebral palsy, or any other related medical condition, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

Request a Free Initial Consultation about Your Child’s HIE

For more information about filing a claim for medical malpractice related to your child’s HIE diagnosis, contact Taos Injury Lawyers to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with one of our experienced attorneys in confidence, submit our online contact form now.

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