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Basics on Hypoxic Brain Injury: Ischemia Encephalopathy (HIE)

Posted by attorney Christopher Mellino

Hypoxic brain injuries stemming from oxygen deprivation can impact not only the brain, but also other vital organs in the body. Hypoxic Ischemia Encephalopathy (HIE) is one such type of birth brain injury, and it is one type of injury that Ohio medical malpractice lawyers handle. Significant damage can occur to the kidneys, liver and heart.

An Overview of Hypoxic Brain Injury (HIE)

HIE causes neurological impairment that affects each baby differently. The organ most at risk of being injured when there is a loss of oxygen is the brain.

The following are other injuries that can be suffered as a result of HIE as a birth brain injury:

  • kidneys – function is abnormal, urine output is low;
  • heart – irregular heart rhythms, abnormal blood pressure;
  • gastrointestinal – feeding difficulties;
  • liver – enzymes are elevated;
  • muscles – stiff or floppy; and
  • respiratory – breathing problems sometimes requiring ventilation.

Risk Factors for Hypoxic Ischemia Encephalopathy

Recognizing risk factors is one of the ways that complications from HIE could be reduced or even prevented. When reasonable medical care and/or treatment aren’t provided, it may be the result of negligence on behalf of a healthcare provider.

The following are some of the risk factors that could result in HIE:

  • prolapsed cord – cord drops into the birth canal, ahead of the baby;
  • placental abruption – placenta partially or totally separates from uterus;
  • vasa previa – blood vessels rupture;
  • uterine rupture – tear in the uterus wall (sometimes caused by incisions made during a C-section); and
  • umbilical cord complications (compressed, wrapped around baby’s neck).

Prevention of Hypoxic Brain Injury (HIE)

When risk factors for HIE aren’t properly detected or treated, it may be the result of medical negligence. For instance, a prolapsed cord usually can be diagnosed when the baby’s heart rate is reduced or upon performing a pelvic examination.

Signs of placental abruption include vaginal bleeding, uterine tenderness, back pain and premature labor. Failure not only to recognize these signs, but also appropriately and quickly take measures to prevent injuries may be a sign of carelessness. As a result, the attending healthcare provider could be liable.

Consequences of Hypoxic Brain Injury (HIE)

One of the more common consequences of a permanent injury stemming from HIE is cerebral palsy. There are different types, which may determine the prognosis.

Ataxic cerebral palsy results in tremors and low muscle tone. Complications include imbalance, impaired motor skills, and visual or hearing impairments.

Athetoid/dyskinetic cerebral palsy results in a mixed range of muscle tone: low to rigid. Consequences include involuntary movements, which can affect walking.

Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common, resulting in rigid muscle tone and is categorized by the following three types:

  • diplegia – leg impairment (hip problems, abnormal gait);
  • quadriplegia – arms and legs impairment (tremors, jerking, inability to walk); and
  • hemiplegia – one side impacted (abnormal tone and movement).

When there is a failure to monitor the baby properly, the delivery process is mishandled or obvious symptoms are ignored, this may show medical negligence, to be proven by an Ohio medical malpractice lawyer. It could lead to compensation to cover medical expenses, both current and future ones that may be necessary in the long-term or for a lifetime after a hypoxic brain injury.

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