Mending the Heartbreak of HIE (Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy)
After nine months of anticipation and doing everything within your power to prepare your baby for a healthy life, it is heartbreaking to learn – either immediately or years later – that your child suffered a brain injury when he or she was born. Although we can’t begin to know how you feel, we do have a sense of the daunting road ahead. That’s why the Ohio birth injury attorneys at The Becker Law Firm are committed to doing everything within our power to hold medical professionals accountable for the injury they caused your child.
What is HIE?
Even though unborn babies can’t breathe air, they still need oxygen. They get that oxygen from the mother’s blood, which is transferred to the baby through the placenta. During or around birth, a variety of circumstances can cause the baby’s blood oxygen levels and/or blood flow to drop. Although babies can bounce back from short periods of oxygen deprivation, when the baby’s brain is deprived of oxygen for an extended period of time, it can result in brain damage. This type of brain injury is called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). HIE is one form of neonatal encephalopathy, and can be caused by birth asphyxia or intrapartum (intrauterine) asphyxia.
Babies who have suffered HIE are classified as having mild, moderate, or severe HIE according to the Sarnat Grading Scale.
- Mild HIE is characterized by the baby being hyperalert, and having normal muscle tone, dilated and reactive pupils, and regular breathing. Mild HIE usually lasts less than 24 hours.
- With moderate HIE, the baby is usually lethargic, and has reduced muscle tone, frequent seizures, small and reactive pupils, and irregular breathing. Moderate HIE typically lasts between two and 14 days.\
- In cases of severe HIE, the baby is in a coma, rarely has seizures, intermittently stops breathing, and has no muscle tone and fixed pupils. Severe HIE usually lasts for weeks.
While the symptoms of HIE may subside, the effects of oxygen deprivation may or may not be immediately evident. That’s why it’s important for parents, teachers, and caregivers to pay close attention to whether or not the baby is reaching his or her developmental milestones.
HIE Causes and Risk Factors
The tragic truth is that almost all cases of HIE are preventable. Medical professionals should be able to diagnose, treat, and manage conditions and circumstances that put a baby at risk for HIE.
Some of the most common HIE causes and risk factors are:
- C-section issues – A delayed a C-section or the failure to perform a C-section when the baby is in distress can cause oxygen deprivation.
- Labor issues – Prolonged and arrested labor, misuse of labor induction drugs, and excessive uterine contractions can result in a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the baby.
- Umbilical cord issues – A baby’s brain can be denied oxygen when the cord is wrapped around his or her neck, knotted, collapsed, compressed, or too short. Often, electronic fetal monitoring will indicate if the unborn baby is sustaining an umbilical cord problem.
- Placental issues – When the placenta covers the mother’s cervix detaches from the uterus, or when the placenta does have the necessary blood volume, the oxygenated blood can’t properly flow from the mother to the baby.
- Size – When the baby is overly large, when the head or body is too big to fit through the mother’s pelvis, when the baby is in the breech or face position, or when forceps or other delivery tools are misused, the baby can be deprived of oxygen or blood flow for an extended period of time.
- Amniotic fluid issues – Having too much or not enough amniotic fluid, or having the fluid sac break too early can lead to HIE through either cord compression or infection.
- Timing issues – When a baby is born prematurely or after the due date, the risk of HIE increases.
- Medical mistakes – Obstetricians or other medical personnel can improperly address the mother’s health issues, such as anemia, high blood pressure, preeclampsia gestational diabetes or the baby’s health issues, such as an infection or breathing problems. Furthermore, failutre to treat a hypoxic ischemic injury timely (i.e., within six hours of birth) with head or whole body cooling may lead to HIE.
Lifelong Challenges of HIE
The complications and disabilities caused by HIE may or may not surface right away. The challenges faced by a child born with HIE can range from developmental delays, gross and fine motor impairment to lifelong issues such as:
- Neurological disorders, such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, dysautonomia, and seizure disorders;
- Sensory issues, like vision loss, hearing loss, crossed eyes, nystagmus; and
- Physiological problems with the respiratory, endocrine, digestive, skeletal, and musculoskeletal systems.
Meeting these challenges is a lifelong endeavor. In addition to medical procedures, children with permanent brain damage from HIE often require one or more types of therapy. For example, some children might need both physical and occupational therapy, while others might need special education and speech or language therapy. Adaptive and assistive technologies might be helpful to some children born with HIE, while recreational therapy might be appropriate for others.
The Becker Law Firm: Holding Medical Providers Accountable
A lawsuit against the medical providers whose negligence or malpractice resulted in your child’s HIE won’t erase his or her brain damage. But financial recovery can help pay for the medical treatments and therapies your child needs, both now and in the future. A lawsuit also holds medical providers and hospitals accountable, which will hopefully cause them to change their practices in order to prevent HIE from being inflicted on other babies.
Our legal team knows how to identify the physical, emotional, and financial costs associated with HIE’s complications and disabilities. We know how to get to the bottom of the medical malpractice or negligence that caused your child’s HIE. Our founder, attorney Michael Becker, has more than 38 years of experience in obtaining financial compensation for the families of children born with HIE. He’s successfully held medical providers and hospitals accountable for negligence that’s led to HIE. He is committed to the best recovery possible for families who face a lifetime of challenges because of HIE.
We’re Here. Reach Out to Us.
We have offices in Cleveland and Elyria, but we take cases all across Ohio. Please call us at (440) 210-9336 to discuss your potential case. We have answers to your questions about HIE litigation: who can file a lawsuit, how long it takes and statutes of limitation. We won’t charge you for your initial consultation, and if we proceed, we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis without any costs to your family.