Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE, is an injury to the brain or other organs, such as the kidney, liver, or heart, caused by asphyxia, or a lack of oxygen to the brain. The brain receives the oxygen it needs through the flow of blood (which contains oxygen), so that the cutting off or restriction of blood flow to the brain results in asphyxia, which may in turn cause HIE.
HIE may result from many things, such as non-fatal drowning, strangulation, or suffocation. In some cases, HIE occurs to a fetus or baby during a mother’s pregnancy, labor, or delivery. If the negligence of the mother’s obstetrician or other medical personnel is a cause of a fetus’s or a baby’s HIE, such medical personnel may be found liable in an action for medical malpractice for the damages suffered by the baby as a result.
If your child sustained an HIE injury as a result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation from those responsible. Contact experienced personal-injury and birth-injury attorney Jeffrey Killino at 877-875-2927 for a no-cost evaluation of your case.
Causes of Asphyxia and HIE
HIE may be caused by anything that cuts off oxygen to the brain. Oxygen deprivation to a fetus can occur during a mother’s pregnancy if the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the fetus’s neck (a complication known as nuchal cord). Oxygen deprivation, or asphyxia, can also occur from nuchal cord during labor or delivery, from compression of the umbilical cord during delivery, from uterine rupture, or from breech birth. Though HIE does not develop every time asphyxia occurs, any one of these incidences of asphyxia may result in HIE. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), indications of asphyxia that may lead to HIE include low maternal blood pressure, lack of fetal movement, and erratic or falling fetal heart rate.
Legal Liability for HIE Injuries
HIE injuries can occur as a result of medical malpractice during a patient’s pregnancy, labor, or delivery. If an obstetrician or other medical professional involved in a pregnant woman’s care negligently fails to detect signs of fetal asphyxia at any of these stages or to adequately respond to such signs, that medical professional may be found liable in a medical-malpractice action for any HIE injuries the child suffers as a result.
Liability Resulting from Negligent Care during Pregnancy
Oxygen deprivation to a fetus can occur during a mother’s pregnancy if the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the fetus’s neck. This is a common occurrence during pregnancy that every obstetrician has been trained to recognize and respond to. If a pregnancy is far enough along to allow for delivery of the fetus, an emergency C-section may be indicated to save the fetus’s life when nuchal cord occurs.
Other complications in the mother that may lead to fetal asphyxia and resulting HIE include pre-eclampsia (which is characterized by hypertension, or very high blood pressure) and eclampsia (which is also known as toxemia and is characterized by seizures). If a pregnant woman’s obstetrician negligently fails to diagnose and/or treat such complications in a timely manner and such failure is found to be a cause of a child’s subsequent HIE birth injuries, the obstetrician may be found liable in a medical malpractice action for the damages suffered by the child as a result.
Liability Resulting from Negligent Care during Labor or Delivery
Negligent care during the labor and delivery stages of a pregnancy by an obstetrician or other medical professional aiding in the delivery of a child may also result in fetal asphyxia and HIE. Nuchal cord frequently occurs during labor and delivery and must be immediately responded to in order to avoid serious injury, including HIE, to a fetus.
Medical personnel aiding in a woman’s labor and her child’s delivery must carefully monitor vital signs of both mother and fetus so that any indications of fetal distress—or maternal complications that may result in fetal distress—may be timely recognized and responded to. Such indications include difficulty breathing in the mother and erratic heart rate in the fetus.
In some cases, the failure of an obstetrician to timely order an emergency Caesarian section may be found to constitute the negligent cause of a fetus’s HIE birth injury. If, for example, nuchal cord is detected and labor has not progressed to the point where the obstetrician can manually untangle the cord from the baby’s neck, a C-section may be required to safely deliver the baby. A C-section may also be indicated when the fetus is in a breech position. The doctor’s failure in such cases to order a C-section or to order one in a timely manner may lead to the doctor’s liability for a child’s HIE injuries if the doctor’s actions are found to have been a proximate cause of the child’s HIE injuries.
If your child has sustained a hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) injury as a result of someone’s negligence, you may be entitled to damages through the institution of a medical-malpractice or negligence action. As an experienced birth-injury lawyer, attorney Jeffrey Killino will provide you with exceptional legal advice regarding any birth injury your child may have sustained and how you can obtain compensation for your child’s injuries from the parties responsible for their occurrence. Contact personal-injury and birth-injury lawyer Jeffrey Killino at 877-875-2927 for more information about your legal rights and options.