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HIE, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy

baby reaching for father's fingerHypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (or “HIE”) is a condition resulting from inadequate oxygen supply to the brain.  As a birth injury, the condition is also called perinatal or intrapartum asphyxia, and occurs when an infant’s oxygen flow is compromised at some point just before, during, or just after childbirth.  Incidences of HIE can range from mild to severe.  In some cases, there is little to no long term damage; unfortunately, death or severe injury can result.  Clinical surveys indicate that asphyxia (or lack of oxygen) in connection with childbirth is responsible for approximately 23% of all newborn deaths worldwide, accounting for 840,000 losses every year.  Moreover, many children who survive go on to live with substantial deficits due to brain damage and other types of injury.

Some of the children surviving with HIE were born right here in New Jersey.  If you are a parent whose child has been diagnosed with this condition, you may have challenging days ahead of you, full of questions and concerns.

Although your child’s injury may have been an unavoidable tragedy, there is a strong possibility that it could have been averted if appropriate measures had been taken during childbirth.  Making a case for medical malpractice is challenging in these circumstances, but a New Jersey birth injury lawyer from Eisbrouch Marsh, who is well-versed in both legal and medical aspects of such cases, can offer you legal representation that can get results for you and your family.  We have successfully represented families from Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Morris, Essex, and Middlesex counties and throughout the New York metropolitan area.

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy

Children who experience HIE-related birth injuries can require substantial medical interventions, intensive therapy, and significant accommodations throughout their life.  Now is the time to make sure that your child gets the best medical care and treatment possible so that he or she can live to the fullest potential. The compensation that you may receive as a result of a successful medical malpractice lawsuit can help make this a reality.

Not every HIE-related injury is a good candidate for a lawsuit; however, an Eisbrouch Marsh medical malpractice attorney can provide an evaluation of your case at no cost to you, answering the many questions that you undoubtedly have at this time.  And you will not be charged any attorney fees unless we bring your case to a successful conclusion.

Causes and risk factors for HIE-related birth injuries 

HIE can occur under any circumstances that restrict or block blood flow to an infant before, after, or during labor and delivery enough to cause damage to the child’s brain.  The extent of long term effects correlates to the area of the brain where damage has occurred.  Other organs or systems can also sustain damage at this time.  Such injuries occur most commonly in full-term infants. 

Many factors during labor can put an infant at risk for HIE.  They include:

  • Lung dysfunctions or disruptions leading to low-levels of oxygen in the blood
  • Heart problems
  • Hemorrhage
  • Prolapsed umbilical cord or injury related to cord complications
  • Pressure to infant’s cranium leading to disrupted flood flow or bleeding
  • Injury resulting from size of infant relative to mother
  • Placental abruption
  • Uterine rupture
  • Ruptured vasa previa
  • Acute maternal hypotension
  • Factors leading to fetal stroke, such as clotting abnormalities, blocked blood flow to placenta, maternal infection or blood pressure problems.

Diagnosis of birth injuries due to HIE 

Medical professionals may suspect and test for HIE-related injuries if they observe the following:

  • A birth marked by the complications listed above as risk factors
  • Impaired motor function
  • Delayed development
  • Delayed growth
  • Organ dysfunction (including of the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and blood)

These factors are not, in and of themselves, sufficient to indicate an HIE-related injury.  A doctor who suspects injury may perform the following:

  • Blood tests
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electroencephalogram
  • Ultrasound
  • Evoked potential tests

The earlier the diagnosis occurs, the earlier and more successful interventions to treat the condition tend to be.  Unfortunately, HIE is not always evident immediately after birth and it may take some time before a definitive diagnosis is made.  If an HIE birth injury lawsuit is to be filed, it is important to contact a law firm such as Eisbrouch Marsh, who possess the resources to research and interpret medical records and establish liability.

Types of birth injuries caused by HIE

Types of birth injuries or long-term complications from Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy vary according to the severity of the injury.

More serious conditions include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Delays in achieving developmental milestones
  • Problems associated with movement and mobility
  • Problems associated with brain functioning

In some cases, children who have sustained HIE birth injuries will require various kinds of therapeutic interventions for the rest of their lives.The birth injury attorneys from Eisbrouch Marsh want to make sure that children who require such assistance as the result of medical malpractice will receive it.

HIE resulting from medical malpractice

While some HIE-related birth injuries are the result of unfortunate accidents, others are the preventable result of medical malpractice.  When a medical practitioner or facility falls below the acceptable standard of care in responding to risks listed above, a medical malpractice attorney has a good possibility to make a case for his clients that those parties are liable for the injuries that their child has suffered.

Standards of care for managing HIE-risk factors include taking these accepted steps:

  • Correctly monitoring the infant during labor an delivery
  • Ensuring that proper medical personal members (obstetrician and anesthesiologist) available to assist at the birth
  • Communicating any risk factors to all parties involved
  • Establishing adequate oxygen flow and breathing at the time of birth

Not every “mistake” constitutes grounds for bringing an HIE lawsuit, but significant lapses in accepted procedure are a good reason to consider filing a complaint.  Eisbrouch Marsh attorneys can help determine whether malpractice may have occurred and whether a potential client may have grounds for a lawsuit.

Compensation available through filing a birth injury lawsuit

Parents who file a medical malpractice lawsuit for an HIE-related birth injury generally seek compensation for medical bills related to the injury, rehabilitation, lost wages, diminished quality of life and earning capacity for their child, and pain and suffering related to the injury.

The amount of compensation will depend upon the severity of the injury and the nature of the malpractice involved.  In more serious cases, a settlement or jury award of hundreds of thousands or millions is not unheard of.

New Jersey birth injury attorneys 

If you suspect that your child’s HIE birth injury is the result of medical negligence, you may have grounds for recovering legal compensation.  A law firm who represents you should have the resources to fully investigate your case, summon expert witnesses if needed, negotiate a settlement to achieve maximum compensation, or to present your story to a jury if necessary.

Eisbrouch Marsh has a proven track record in litigating birth injury lawsuits that should give you confidence as you seek justice for your family. Please contact our offices at 201-977-6040 to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation to learn more about how we can help you.

  1. Medscape, Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/973501-overview
  2. Birthinjury.org, Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy http://www.birthinjury.org/brain-injury-cerebral-palsy-hypoxic-ischemic-encephalopathy.html
  3. UTMD, Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) http://www.utmb.edu/pedi_ed/CORE/Neonatology/page_25.htm
  4. My Child: The Ultimate Resource for Everything Cerebral Palsy, “HIE,” http://cerebralpalsy.org/about-cerebral-palsy/cause/hypoxic-ischemic-encephalopathy-or-intrapartum-asphyxia/