There are few things more tragic than when parents have gone through the birthing process with high expectations of a healthy child, only to discover that complications of birth have altered the life of the child and the family forever. Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is one such condition that can result in severe damage to a baby’s brain and nervous system. Also called “birth asphyxia” or “neonatal encephalopathy” HIE is a serious form of brain damage that can result from medical malpractice.
How HIE Occurs in the Brain
When HIE occurs in a newborn, oxygen and blood flow becomes restricted from flowing to parts of the brain. When this happens, some of the newborns’ brain cells start to break down. These cells release lactic acid and various compounds that can then disrupt normal cellular function. HIE impacts the whole brain, but neurons are most vulnerable due to the lack of oxygen or hypoxia and ischemia. Referred to as ‘selective neuronal necrosis’, when brain cells begin to die in this way, a cascade of damaging events causes the condition to become increasingly worse very quickly.
Help For the Infant Brain
Although HIE can happen due to a high-risk pregnancy and unforeseen labor and delivery issues, it can be prevented through the practice of careful fetal monitoring and timely intervention to crisis by the attending healthcare providers. Unfortunately, sometimes the medical team can miss critical opportunities to prevent HIE. And in some cases, medical professionals can engage in negligent actions that lead up to HIE.
No matter what happens to initiate HIE, proper monitoring on the part of medical staff followed by appropriate treatment of severe cases is essential for improving the child’s condition. Severe cases of HIE may cause permanent injury or even death. It is the responsibility of the healthcare provider to carefully watch the baby’s symptoms as they develop and to be able to respond to symptoms of HIE and then immediately follow up with an effective treatment plan.
Medical intervention and treatment within the first few hours, days, and weeks following birth is crucial. Children who receive appropriate medical care in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (or NICU) have the best chance of improving and reducing further complications.
Later Development of HIE
It is also possible for a newborn may to have sustained a hypoxic-ischemic injury, but not show signs of it until later in childhood. Symptoms may come to the surface with delayed developmental milestones (including delays in motor skills, growth, cognitive function, etc.). Getting help for a child suffering from a birth injury can make a big difference in the future of that child, and the family caring for that child. Since early intervention is often key to improving a child’s wellbeing, it’s important to act quickly.
Getting the Help You Need
If you believe that your child has experienced HIE, it is critically important to work with an attorney who understands the complexities of this type of medical complication so that they can assist you in obtaining justice. Reach out to the Law Offices of Dr. Russell W. Sawyer for a free consultation contact us at (707) 888-1118.