Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is a very serious newborn brain injury. HIE has also been called birth asphyxia, birth injury, newborn brain injury, perinatal encephalopathy, or perinatal asphyxia. HIE consists of three components:
- Hypoxia, which is when there is a lack of oxygen to organs or tissues,
- Ischemia, or a restriction of blood flow and oxygen to tissue that results in tissue or organ damage and,
- Encephalopathy or brain injury.
HIE is when there is brain damage due to a restriction of blood and oxygen to the baby’s brain. The longer the brain is deprived of vital oxygen and nutrients, the more devastating the neurological outcome is for the baby.
HIE Birth Injury Risk Factors
During labor and delivery, there are certain conditions that could cause a lack of blood and oxygen to a baby’s brain. Obstetricians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives need to be aware that conditions such as eclampsia, a prolapsed or compressed umbilical cord, ruptured uterus, placental abruption, abdominal trauma, high uterine pressures, hyperstimulation of the uterus, high blood pressure or seizures in the mother may lead to a lack of blood and oxygen reaching the baby’s brain.
When a woman is in labor, a fetal monitor is used to not only monitor the mother’s uterus and contractions, but also the baby’s well being. The fetal monitor strip or baby monitor shows a tracing that reflects the baby’s heart rate and response or tolerance to the labor. The obstetrician, nurse, nurse practitioner or nurse midwife needs to constantly monitor the fetal strips for any signs of fetal distress in the baby. In addition, they also have to watch how many contractions a mother is having within a certain period of time. If a mother is having too many contractions in a short period of time, the baby may not be able to relax and rest enough in between contractions.
Another problem that could arise is if the mothers uterine resting tone does not return back to baseline or total relaxation after a contraction. If a mother’s uterus does not completely relax, it will continue to put pressure and stress on the baby and cause a decrease in the much needed blood flow and oxygen to the fetus. The nurses on our Philadelphia birth injury team at The Beasley Firm have worked thousands of hours in the labor, delivery, and neonatal intensive care units and are very knowledgeable in reading and interpreting fetal monitor strips. Our highly specialized nurses have spent countless hours at the bedside of laboring mothers, watching fetal monitor strips and the wellbeing of infants during the labor process.
HIE Brain Damage Consequences and Treatment Options
Sadly, 15% to 20% of infants who develop HIE will die during childbirth or in the newborn period. Infants who suffered a hypoxic insult to the brain during labor and delivery will usually have low APGAR scores. Of the infants that survive a hypoxic ischemic event during delivery, at least 25% of them will have significant or catastrophic neurological damage. HIE brain damage can cause mental retardation, seizures, epilepsy, an inability to speak, developmental delays, an inability to sit unassisted, delays in reaching milestones, learning disabilities, an inability to swallow, an inability to eat, an inability to control bowel or bladder or potty train, an inability to crawl or walk, cerebral palsy, a vegetative state, coma or even death. Newborns who suffer from HIE may require ventilators, breathing tubes, tracheotomies, feeding tubes, wheelchairs, life long medical procedures and treatments, and 24 hour total care.
Until recently, the only treatment for infants born with HIE was to support the baby’s heart rate, lungs, airway, and provide adequate nutrition either through a feeding tube or total parental nutrition (TPN). In recent years, brain cooling has been added to the treatment of HIE. It is believed that cooling the brain will not only help minimize the damage already done to the baby’s injured brain, but also halt any additional brain damage.
Justice For Families Afflicted By Birth Injury And Medical Malpractice
Our experienced Philadelphia birth injury lawyers are well aware of the devastating effects of HIE. For over 50 years, our experienced medical and legal teams have been successfully representing families, just like yours, whose lives have been forever changed by a brain injury that happened during birth. We are here to help you. Please feel free to contact our Pennsylvania Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy attorneys at 1.888.823.5291 for a no obligation consultation.