Was Medical Negligence the Cause of Your Infant’s Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)?

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Medical negligence is an act or omission (failure to act) by a medical professional that deviates from the accepted medical standard of care. A birth injury occurs when damage to the infant happens during the process of birth. To have a valid birth injury claim, medical negligence must have taken place leading directly to the birth injury. Of all the life-threatening conditions that are caused as a result of a medical error by a healthcare provider, the most serious birth injuries are caused when a lack of oxygen damages the infant’s brain. Lack of oxygen or blood flow during birth can cause brain damage called hypoxic-ischemic injury.

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain dysfunction that occurs when the brain doesn't receive enough oxygen or blood flow for a period of time. Hypoxic means not enough oxygen; ischemic means not enough blood flow, and encephalopathy means brain disorder. Infants with severe HIE may go on to develop profound lifelong injuries, including a severe form of cerebral palsy (CP) known as quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy; baby seizure disorders, including epilepsy; impaired growth of the brain and skull (microcephaly); and global developmental delays.

If the blood or oxygen supply to the baby’s brain was interrupted, the rest of their body may have also been "starved" of oxygen causing damage to organs. If the brain has sustained an injury, it may not recover fully. The length of time the brain was without oxygen usually determines the severity of the damage.

Symptoms of HIE often depend on the severity and extent of the brain injury, as well as the areas of the brain that were affected. Babies born with HIE may be floppy and unreactive to sights or sounds, very tense and react more to stimulation than a healthy newborn, have abnormal movements or seizures, have feeding problems due to weak muscles in their mouth and throat, have a weak cry, and show signs of organ dysfunction, especially of the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and blood.

If a significant risk factor such as fetal distress or low heart rate occurred during labor and delivery, or the baby needed help with breathing or had a low heart rate after delivery, HIE may be suspected.

To confirm a diagnosis of HIE, a neurologist will examine your baby, who will be monitored by an electroencephalogram for seizures and signs of brain dysfunction and undergo neuroimaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to check for signs of brain injury.

A birth injury lawyer can help determine if your child’s brain injury or HIE was caused by the negligence of a healthcare provider. The Aldred Law Firm has helped many families throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, and South Carolina make meaningful financial recoveries for birth injuries occurring because of the negligence of healthcare providers, including the military. Attorney Aldred understands both the legal side of birth injury lawsuits and the medical side and has experience reading fetal heart monitor strips and medical records. He and his experts can establish whether intervention would have resulted in a perfectly healthy baby, instead of a child who will require a lifetime of care. If you suspect your baby suffered a birth injury or brain injury at birth, we are here to help.

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