Medical Malpractice Claims For Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

When infants are deprived of oxygen, serious health complications can occur. Some cases of oxygen deprivation occur due to unforeseeable circumstances, but many others are the result of negligent medical care.

  • Oxygen deprivation can lead to infant brain damage.
  • Medical professionals can be held liable for preventable birth injuries.
  • Our birth injury lawyers can help your family secure compensation.
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Issues with oxygen deprivation before, during, or shortly after birth often lead to devastating birth injuries, including brain damage and developmental disorders. Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy is one of the most common forms of infant brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation. This condition leaves lasting effects which a child must carry with them for the rest of their lives, including:

  • Developmental disorders
  • Cognitive delays
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Epilepsy and seizures
  • Impaired hearing and vision

A preventable birth injury is one of the most difficult experiences a parent could ever go through. While advances in medical technology have made birth injuries more rare over the years, complications still happen. Some of these birth complications may be unavoidable, but occasionally, a medical professional makes a careless mistake which affects a child and their family for the rest of their lives.

The financial ramifications of a preventable injury can disrupt entire families. HIE and other related conditions often require a lifetime of medical care, and family members are often forced to interrupt their professional lives in order to care for their injured child. Medical malpractice lawsuits can help provide these families with the financial support they need and help to hold negligent medical professionals liable for their mistakes.

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What Causes HIE?

There are several different causes of HIE, including:

  • Placental insufficiency
  • Uterine raptures
  • Placental abruptions
  • Umbilical knots
  • Compressed or prolapsed umbilical cords
  • Blood clotting in the mother
  • Fetal maternal hemorrhages
  • Extremely low blood pressure in the mother
  • Trauma during delivery
  • Blood clots in the placenta
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Aneurysm ruptures

Some of these circumstances are unavoidable or occur without warning. However, sometimes medical professionals fail to identify and properly treat a pregnancy complication which later leads to to infant oxygen deprivation. When this occurs, the doctor has failed to meet their medical standard of care – meaning that they’ve acted or failed to act in a way another doctor would have in the same situation, which resulted in a preventable injury.

Symptoms To Look For

In some cases, symptoms of HIE will be immediately apparent before or during delivery. In others, symptoms may not surface until after the infant has been delivered. Common warning signs to watch for include:

  • Low or absent heart rate
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Seizures
  • Low muscle tone or “floppy’ appearance
  • Blue or pale skin
  • Absent or impaired reflexes
  • Acidosis (too much acid in the body fluids or tissues)
  • Irregularly colored infant stools

It’s up to medical professionals to identify and address symptoms as soon as possible. If a failure to do so results in health problems, the affected family could have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Available Treatments

The medical field has recently made significant progress in the treatment of HIE. In some cases, the long-term effects of this condition can be greatly reduced if the proper treatment methods are applied.

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition, but may include:

  • Therapeutic Hypothermia – Brain injuries can be greatly reduced if the infant’s brain is cooled a few degrees below body temperature for three days after birth. The infant is placed on a cooling blanket, given medicine, and closely monitored. Following this three-day period, the body temperature is gradually raised back to normal.
  • Internal Organ Support – Medical support for internal organs such as the heart, kidneys, and liver is often necessary to prevent damage from oxygen deprivation.
  • Maintaining Healthy Blood Pressure – Blood pressure can drop to dangerously low levels if oxygen deprivation is left untreated. Dopamine and dobutamine can be administered to raise blood pressure back to a healthy level.
  • Mechanical Ventilation – If the baby is unable to breathe on their own, it may be necessary to use a breathing tube. Mechanical ventilation helps to stabilize gases and acid-bases in the blood stream.
  • Seizure Medications – Babies who develop seizures related to oxygen deprivation will require medication to control them.

Medical professionals have a duty to do everything they can to prevent birth complications like HIE, and to treat them promptly and accurately when such complications do occur.

When Is A Malpractice Lawsuit An Option?

In order to seek financial compensation for a birth injury, you must prove that your child’s injury, disorder, or illness would not have occurred if it weren’t for the medical negligence of a healthcare professional. For example, if your baby suffered oxygen deprivation because your obstetrician failed to identify and address a prolapsed umbilical cord, you would likely be able to recover financial compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit. But if the condition developed because of an unexpected blood clot during labor, you may not have grounds for a claim.

Determining the cause of your baby’s disorder usually takes a careful investigation by medical experts. A reliable birth injury lawyer will have contacts within the medical community who they can consult with in order to gather medical evidence. From there, your lawyer will review all records and documents in order to determine if negligence was the main cause of your baby’s HIE.

A medical malpractice lawsuit is often the only recourse families have for recovering the financial assistance their child needs in order to recover and live a happy life. If successful, you could recover compensation for economic and noneconomic damages, such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Past and future lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life

To determine if you have a strong case, contact us today for a free initial consultation. Our firm also works on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay us as a percentage of your final payout after we’ve helped you secure financial compensation.

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