Newborn and Infant Hypoxic Brain Injury Lawyers
When a newborn suffers a birth injury, all of the careful planning for its future comes into question. The lives of the infant’s parents are pulled along with it — and this situation can last for months, years or a lifetime.
Birth injuries resulting from a lack of oxygen during birth are called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), and often lead to developmental and neurological issues such as cerebral palsy for the child and unexpected financial and emotional strain for the family. The tragic part is that such injuries are often preventable by timely intervention on the part of the attendant medical professionals.
What is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?
HIE is a type of brain injury that occurs when an infant doesn’t receive enough oxygenated blood flow to its brain. It occurs in about 1.5 of every 1,000 live births, and is the cause of 23 percent of neonatal deaths worldwide. HIE is a significant worry for premature births — University of Florida Health estimates that it affects 60 percent of all preterm infants.
Photo by Chris Sternal-Johnson of an intubated premature infant, licensed under CC BY 2.0
HIE caused by birth asphyxia is the leading cause of infant deaths in the US, as well as the greatest factor in developmental impairments.
What Causes HIE
HIE can be caused by problems during pregnancy, those in labor and delivery, and postpartum complications. The following are the most common causes:
- Maternal conditions like high blood pressure and vascular disease
- Drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy
- Mismanaged high-risk pregnancy
- Abnormal fetal position
- Prolonged late-stage labor
- Uterine rupture
- Placental complications
- Umbilical cord issues
- Fetal monitoring errors
- Delayed emergency C-section
What Should Be Done to Prevent HIE
Proper prevention of HIE starts during pregnancy. At regular intervals, prenatal tests should be given to the mother and baby to ensure fetal health and development — and these tests should be given more often in the event of high-risk pregnancies involving challenging maternal conditions, fetal issues or a history of obstetrical complications.
Photo by Chris Horry at Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando, Florida, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
When the mother is admitted to the labor and delivery unit, a fetal heart monitor should be used to alert the medical team to any signs of fetal distress. If the baby experiences interrupted oxygen flow to its brain, this will be reflected in the monitoring, at which point the team can try resuscitative measures like having the mother shift position or administering IV fluids. If these interventions don’t work or other complications emerge, the baby sometimes needs to be delivered within minutes to ensure its health.
While the team is attempting to alleviate fetal distress, preparations for an emergency C-section must also be made. The medical staff’s coordination and experience are extremely important in such cases, as delays may spell the difference between a healthy delivery and an infant with HIE.
Treatment of HIE
According to Harvard’s Academic Medical Center Patient Safety Organization, babies with moderate to severe HIE should be treated with therapeutic hypothermia — the practice of cooling the baby’s internal temperature to allow its body time to recover and reduce the spread of damage. This treatment has been shown to be most effective if begun within the first six hours after injury.
Failure to perform this procedure on a newborn in need of it may constitute medical malpractice.
How to Know if Medical Negligence is Responsible for Your Infant’s Injury
The proof of medical negligence doesn’t rest on showing that something went wrong in the labor, delivery or C-section of your child, resulting in an injury. Rather, it must be proven that the medical professionals in attendance did not provide the standard level of care in such a situation.
Most often, establishing medical negligence requires the testimony of an expert medical witness, able to verify that the defendants’ conduct fell short of the accepted medical standard, and that this lapse in care was responsible for the infant’s injury.
When to See an Attorney
In cases of birth injuries such as HIE, the best course of action is to consult with skilled attorneys like those at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt. With 30 years of experience litigating cases of birth trauma, the firm is well suited to evaluate the situation and help determine if the injury suffered involved acts of medical negligence or professional malpractice. All birth injury claims are handled on a contingency basis.
To schedule a meeting for a free consultation, fill out our form or call us directly at 1-800-590-4116.