Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain damage that occurs when an infant’s brain is deprived of oxygen due to decreased blood flow to the brain before, during, or after the birth process. Although relatively rare (estimated to occur in approximately 4 births per 1,000), HIE is the most common cause of infant brain damage. In spite of being an extremely dangerous condition, infants have a much-improved prognosis with immediate medical intervention. For this reason, the steps your obstetrician and other medical personnel take during those first critical moments can make a tremendous difference in the life of your child and the lives of all members of your family.
If you have a child who has suffered brain damage as a result of HIE, or if you have tragically lost an infant due to this injury, you should have your case evaluated not only by neonatal medical experts but by experienced birth injury attorneys. Nagel Rice, an esteemed personal injury law firm with offices in Roseland and Manhattan, will assess the particulars of your situation to evaluate whether you have a viable case for a medical malpractice lawsuit. We will not charge you a fee for your initial consultation and if we proceed with litigation you will pay us nothing until we win you damages. We have an extraordinary track record of success, having won over $1 billion for our clients and we want to help you and your family recover and adapt.
Timing Is Everything
After only a few minutes of oxygen deprivation, an infant’s brain begins to deteriorate, resulting in brain damage and lifelong disabilities. Beyond that, HIE is responsible for almost a quarter of all neonatal deaths. Whether you are raising a brain-damaged child or have lost an infant to HIE as a result of medical malpractice, Nagel Rice’s compassionate birth injury attorneys are prepared to fight for you to receive the damages you are entitled to.
Risk Factors for HIE
Not all cases of HIE are avoidable, nor are all the result of medical mistakes. There are several risk factors that contribute to the possibility of birth asphyxia. These include both pre-existing maternal health conditions and issues arising before, during or after the birth process.
Maternal Pre-Existing Health Conditions that increase the risk of HIE include:
- Very low blood pressure
- Restricted placental blood flow
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Cardiac disease
- Drug or alcohol abuse
If your doctor has failed to take necessary precautions necessitated by one of these maternal pre-existing conditions, he or she may have been negligent. Once you consult with Nagel Rice, we will explore all possible avenues of investigation to determine whether better medical attention could have prevented the damage to your baby.
Issues Arising Before, During or After the Birth Process, include:
- Rupture of the placenta or uterus (placental abruption)
- Prolonged pinching or knotting of the umbilical cord
- Extended labor and delivery involving excessive pressure on the infant’s brain due to:  abnormal positioning of the fetus  cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) — when the baby’s head is too large for the mother’s pelvis
- Neonatal lungs incapable of taking in sufficient oxygen (usually in preemies)
Obstetricians should be prepared to handle any of the above-mentioned issues. Medical malpractice can sometimes be proven when medical professionals fail to notice signs of fetal distress quickly enough to take action to stabilize the situation.
Symptoms of HIE
As previously noted, immediate intervention is required to prevent or limit brain damage in cases of HIE, so it is crucial that healthcare professionals pay extremely close attention to infants just prior to, during, and immediately after birth. Possible signs of HIE should be assessed very frequently in accordance with the Apgar score (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration) which measures:
- Skin coloration in terms of blood flow (pallor or blue tinge is dangerous)
- Low heart rate (low pulse)
- Weak breathing
- Reflex irritability (grimace)
- Poor muscle tone (activity)
Other signs of fetal or infant distress are:
- Fetal stool in the amniotic fluid
- Seizures that begin within 48 hours after birth
- Decreased fetal movement
- Inability of infant to nurse properly
- Infant lethargy
- Low pH in umbilical cord blood gas tests (acidemia)
- Abnormal response to light
There may also be signs of a problem in the mother indicating a problem with the fetus, including
- Abnormal contraction pattern
- Vaginal bleeding
- Abnormally high or low weight gain
- High blood pressure
As a parent, you should be aware that physicians who do not recognize or immediately take action about any of the above signs in either the infant or the mother may be considered negligent. You should also know that whether any of these signs are in evidence or not if any event has occurred that deprived the fetus or infant of oxygen, diagnostic tests, such as an electroencephalogram (EEG) should be administered to ensure that the child doesn’t require special treatment.
Urgent Treatments for HIE
As noted earlier, in cases of HIE, speedy intervention can mean the difference between life and “half-life,” as well as between life and death. If your doctor detects any of the above symptoms of possible HIE, he or she must take immediate steps to mitigate the brain damage. Possible treatments include:
- Intrauterine resuscitation
- Ventilation of the infant
- Fluid, blood pressure, and perfusion management
- Maintenance of appropriate blood glucose levels
- Medications or general anesthesia to control seizures
- Hyperthermia treatments
- Performance of a Cesarean section
Statute of Limitations for Birth Injuries in New Jersey
You should move quickly if you suspect your child has HIE issues as a result of malpractice in the delivery room since the statute of limitations for such lawsuits is 2 years from the date of injury. There is wiggle room, however, if defects from the birth injury show up later. The law provides leeway for the clock to start ticking from the time you may reasonably have discovered the origin of the brain injury. Thus, if your child begins to suffer, or is diagnosed with one of the following symptoms at age 2, and a medical expert believes the problem is due to an injury during the birth process, our astute attorneys may still be able to file a birth injury lawsuit on your behalf. Symptoms that may be diagnosed later include:
- Impaired motor function
- Delayed developmental milestones
- Seizure disorder
- Delayed growth
- Hearing and visual impairments
Nagel Rice Will Fight Ferociously for the Compensation You Need and Deserve
We know how heartbreaking it is to have a child who has ongoing challenges as a result of a brain injury that might have been prevented. While you obtain the medical, psychological, therapeutic and educational services your child needs, our birth injury attorneys will fight aggressively to get you the money you need to pay for them. You are entitled to damages beyond medically related expenses, such as for pain and suffering and for your loss of income while taking care of your special needs child. Check out our credentials and our track record and contact us by phone or through our website. We won’t let you down.