The medical malpractice attorneys at the Brannon Law Firm handle birth injury cases, including those involving Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy. If your child has been diagnosed with Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy there is a good possibility that it was caused by medical negligence or medical malpractice. It is in your best interests to seek out more information about Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy if you suspect that medical malpractice or negligence may have been involved in the delivery process. Information on what Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy is and what it might mean for you and your child can be found below. Additionally, the medical malpractice attorneys at the Brannon Law Firm invite you to contact us, either at 937-228-2306 or 1-800-VERDICT to learn more about Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy and how we can help.
What is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy refers to a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation. Hypoxia refers to the loss of oxygen to the brain. Ischemic refers to low blood flow to the vital organs. And Encephalopathy refers to a condition that is caused by low blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Generally, this loss of oxygen occurs during the perinatal period, which commences at 22 completed weeks of gestation and ends seven completed days after birth. Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy as a result of asphyxia is the leading cause of infant fatalities and severe impairments in the United States.
It is essential for the human brain to receive oxygen. Oxygen keeps the brain cells alive and working, thus keeping the entire brain alive and working, and allowing the entire body to function. Oxygen is delivered to the brain via blood flow. If blood flow does not reach the brain, then oxygen does not reach the brain, and the brain cells begin to die. This causes brain damage. Generally speaking, the longer the brain goes without oxygen and blood flow, the more severe the brain damage.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy can have a number of symptoms that may indicate that an infant is suffering from it. These include:
- Low heart rate
- Poor muscle tone
- Weak breathing
- No breathing at all
- Hypotonia (low muscle tone)
- Multiple organ problems
- Abnormal limpness
- Difficulty in latching, sucking, and swallowing process of feeding
- Blue or pale skin color
- Excessive acid in the blood
- Amniotic fluid stained a green color by meconium
- Necessity of resuscitation
Causes of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy can be caused by a number of different circumstances. Issues causing Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy can arise before labor, during labor, and even after labor. These include, but are not limited to, the following.
- Maternal Conditions – High blood pressure, maternal age or infection that was not properly managed
- Problems with Placenta or Uterus – The placenta is the nutrient source for the infant via the umbilical cord
- Cardiac Disease
- Congenital Infections to Fetus
- Drug and Alcohol Use
- Severe Fetal Anemia
- Fetal Conditions – An infant’s large size, high weight, or positioning may create complications
- Umbilical Cord Injuries – The umbilical cord delivers blood and oxygen to the infant
- Tachysystole – Frequent and excessive uterine contractions
- Delayed Delivery – Either through post-term or delaying an emergency C-section
- Fetal trauma – Especially in the infant’s brain during delivery
- Oligohydramnios – Not enough amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus
- Premature Birth
- Prolonged or Arrested Labor
- Fetal Stroke
- Severe Cardiac or Pulmonary Disease in the Infant
- Infections – Especially Sepsis and Meningitis
- Premature Birth
- Low Blood Pressure in Infant
- Trauma – Especially to brain or skull
- Congenital brain Malformations
Consequences of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy can result in serious consequences, with a wide range of possible damage. Generally, the longer there is oxygen deprivation, the more severe and the more permanent the resulting injury will be. Some other factors that may impact the severity of damage include:
- Severity of oxygen deprivation
- The amount of time oxygen was deprived
- The condition of infant prior to the oxygen deprivation
- How the medical professionals respond to the oxygen deprivation
The most severe potential consequence is death. Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy may be fatal to an infant if it is not treated in time.
Long term consequences of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy depend on which part of the brain may have been affected. Some examples are below:
- Epilepsy or Seizure Disorders
- Hearing Impairment
- Muscle Control – Damage to areas of the brain that control muscle movement may result in weak limbs, difficulty in movement, coordination, and balance, or other symptoms similar to a Palsy (such as Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy, or Klumpke’s Palsy)
- Vision – The occipital lobe, located in the back of the brain, controls vision. Damage to that lobe may lead to loss in various visual functions
- Memory – Damage to the hippocampus may create problems with various memory functions
- Speech – Speech has various elements that may be effected, such as articulation, understanding language, and even written communication
- Ability to Think – Brain damage may be severe enough to create difficulty in performing the ability to even think, process, and make executive decisions.
There are a variety of treatments for Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy. Choosing a treatment option depends on the cause of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, the subsequent consequences, and how severe the brain damage is. These changing factors make routine treatment for Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy difficult. Instead, doctors often have to create a unique treatment plan that is developed specifically for the individual infant’s circumstances.
There may be two stages of treatment. The first is the immediate response to Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, in an effort to end the condition or to help alleviate the immediate cause of the condition. The general goal of this treatment is to support the infant’s affected organs. Possible treatment options include:
- Mechanical Ventilation – For infants unable to breath on their own
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy – This involves breathing 100% oxygen, used when there may have been carbon monoxide intoxication
- Cooling the Infant – High temperatures in the affected organs can make the situation worse. By physically cooling the infant, some hypoxia may be reversed
- Seizure Response – If there are seizures, medication and general anesthesia may be used
- Heart Treatments – Treatment may be necessary to help with heart function or control blood pressure
The second stage would be the treatment for whatever damage was caused by the Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy. Because it may take years to determine the full scope of the damage or for even symptoms of the damage to emerge, this treatment may take a long time to figure out and may involve a large number of tests and medical procedures to do to. Some examples include:
- CT Scans
- PET Scans
- Tests – Such as blood glucose, arterial blood gas tests,
What treatment for the damage done by Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy is difficult to predict, because it will ultimately be determined by the specific symptoms and consequences of each case. However, this treatment can be far ranging and may be long term, sometimes requiring a small amount of work and sometimes requiring a lifetime of constant treatment and procedures.
Medical and Legal Significance of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy is a known potential problem with childbirth and should be carefully monitored. It can occur through circumstances outside of human control or it can occur due to medical malpractice.
For circumstances outside of human control, it is important for doctors and medical professionals to be aware of the possibility of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy and to keep monitoring any risk factor that may be present in a mother, a fetus, or at birth. Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy can be planned for. Through proper planning and action, medical professionals should have the opportunity to prevent Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy from occurring in the first place. For circumstances within human control, it is important for doctors and medical professionals to perform the various birthing procedures and techniques in the proper manner, in order to avoid causing Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy through an incorrect action or failure to act.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy and the damage that can occur as a result may be caused by the medical malpractice or negligence of medical professionals. If a doctor fails to observe the risk factors associated with Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy and does not create a plan for how to address it, they may be unprepared in the event of the emergency, which may worsen their chances at preventing damage to the infant. Doctors may also fail to act quickly enough or in the proper fashion when Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy occurs, resulting in damage that may have been avoidable. This may include doing the wrong thing, doing the right thing too slowly, or doing nothing at all.
It is the responsibility of doctors and other medical professionals to be ready to address the medical issue of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy. Failure to do so may be medical malpractice or medical negligence.
Seeking Legal Counsel and Guidance
If your child has been diagnosed with Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, medical malpractice or medical negligence may be the cause. The medical malpractice attorneys at the Brannon Law Firm have the skill and experience to discover whether your child’s Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy could have been avoided or prevented by the medical professionals and can help ensure that your child lives the best life possible despite the diagnosis.
Medical malpractice and medical negligence is preventable. It is caused by the error, improper action, or lack of action by medical professionals. It is important to hold those medical professionals to the proper standards of medical care and to hold them accountable for the harm and damage they may cause. The Brannon Law Firm can help hold those at fault accountable.
Additionally, treatment for your child may be difficult, both financially and emotionally. The very act of determining what treatment may be needed can take a large number of expensive medical tests and require years. The consequences of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy can be severe and long lasting, requiring years of medical treatment, loss of quality of life, and costly medical bills. In some cases, the consequences can even be fatal. It is important to ensure you have the assistance and care that your child deserves to live the best life possible. The Brannon Law Firm can help with that process.
At the Brannon Law Firm, we have represented many families and infants who were unfortunate victims of preventable Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy. We have obtained favorable verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients in Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy cases. Our expertise extends to multiple areas of medical malpractice litigation and has resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts and settlement.
We invite you to contact us, either at 937-228-2306 or 1-800-VERDICT for a free consultation. The Brannon Law Firm is proud to serve clients in Dayton and throughout the State of Ohio.