Baby feet in a blanket

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy: What Parents Should Know

By Greg Kohn

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) occurs when the brain does not receive sufficient blood flow or oxygen. HIE often occurs before, during, or after childbirth. Because the brain controls bodily functions, a lack of oxygen to the infant’s brain can affect many organs, including lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys. A child may have permanent impairments because of medical negligence and mistakes by healthcare providers.

Our New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers help parents hold medical providers accountable for hurting their children. In this blog, our lawyers discuss what parents should know about collecting damages for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

Infants may display one or more signs of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. Symptoms of HIE include, but are not limited to:

  • Problems with reflexes
  • Breaching problems
  • A slow or irregular heart rate
  • Low (hypotonia) or high (hypertonia) muscle tone
  • Unusual movements and/or seizures
  • Very pale or blue skin
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty feeding and/or abnormal breathing patterns
  • Decreased alertness and activity
  • Acidosis (too much acid in the body)
  • Strained meconium

If you notice any of the above symptoms something does not “feel right” regarding your infant, seek medical care immediately. A medical specialist can diagnose whether your child has NIE.

What Is the Prognosis for Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Prompt medical care is crucial. HIE is a serious condition that could result in death. It can also lead to one or more impairments or disabling conditions caused by permanent brain damage. Infants with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy can develop:

  • Vision of hearing loss
  • Epilepsy
  • Problems with grown
  • Difficulty focusing and paying attention
  • Development delays
  • Problems with cognitive function
  • Intellectual disability
  • Infections
  • Cerebral palsy

Your child may require lifelong care and treatment. If a medical provider was negligent or made errors during labor and delivery that led to HIE, your child could be entitled to compensation for damages.

Diagnosing Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy in New Jersey

Doctors and healthcare providers should monitor the mother and infant for signs of problems, including analyzing the risk factors for the infant to develop HIE. Risk factors for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy include:

  • Contamination of the amniotic fluid
  • Low birth rate
  • Prolonged labor
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Substance use disorder
  • Preeclampsia
  • Delayed fetal development

Healthcare providers have a duty to watch for signs of HIE during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Your doctor can perform tests to confirm a diagnosis, including placenta blood test, fetal heart monitoring, EEG, cord blood/gasses test, and newborn wellness assessment (Apgar score). A prompt diagnosis can reduce the risk of long-term disabilities and death.

Can I File a Medical Malpractice Claim if My Child is Diagnosed with Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy?

The facts of your case must support the legal elements of a medical malpractice claim. You must prove:

  • The healthcare provider owed a duty of care to you and your child
  • They failed to provide the accepted medical standard of care required for the situation
  • The breach of duty by the healthcare provider was the direct and proximate cause of your baby’s injuries
  • Your baby sustained injuries and damages because of the healthcare provider’s breach of duty

After proving your doctor committed medical malpractice and the malpractice injured your child, you can recover money for economic damages, such as diminished earning capacity,  medical bills, nursing/personal care, and out-of-pocket expenses. Your child may also receive non-economic damages for pain and suffering, permanent impairments, disabilities, and diminished quality of life.

Schedule a Consultation with Our New Jersey Birth Injury Lawyers

No amount of money can make up for the pain and suffering a negligence medical provider caused your child. However, your child needs and deserves to be compensated for their injuries and damages. These finds can help you and your child now and in the future. Contact Nagel Rice, LLP to schedule a consultation with a New Jersey personal injury attorney. Let’s work to get your child a fair settlement for a medical malpractice claim.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.