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What does hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy mean for your baby?

With all of the technology and advancements in medicine, you would think that safely delivering a baby would happen every time. Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen. Infants suffer a myriad of injuries as the result of substandard care from the doctors their mothers and fathers trusted.

If you trusted your obstetrician to make sure that you and your baby made it through labor and delivery unharmed, but that didn't happen, you wondered why. Then you find out that your baby suffered from a severe case of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

What is that?

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, also referred to as perinatal asphyxia, causes a subacute or acute brain injury. It occurred when your baby received an abnormally low amount of oxygen, called hypoxemia. Your baby could also have suffered from a reduction in blood flow to the brain. Babies can recover within 24 hours from a mild case or around two weeks for a moderate case of HIE. If the condition is severe, it's characterized by the following:

  • Seizures that fail to respond to conventional treatment
  • Blood pressure irregularities
  • Coma or stupor
  • Hypotania, or low muscle tone
  • Irregular breathing
  • Absence of neonatal reflexes such as swallowing, sucking or grasping
  • Depressed deep tendon reflexes
  • Fixed, poorly reactive or dilated pupils
  • Eye movement disturbances
  • Heat rate irregularities

Death could even occur from cardiorespiratory failure. Even a mild case of HIE does not necessarily mean your baby is out of the woods. The condition can quickly deteriorate into a life-threatening situation.

What about the aftermath?

Even though your baby survived, he or she could suffer lifelong repercussions. He or she could suffer from one or more of the following:

  • Motor impairment
  • Epilepsy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Developmental delays
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Neurodevelopmental delay

Any one of these conditions could require a significant amount of care for your child as he or she ages. In fact, your baby's doctor may not even know the full extent of the damage until your child reaches the age of 3 or 4. Any number of conditions prior to or during birth should have provided a red flag to your doctor that something was wrong.

Ignoring any sign that your baby was in distress could have led to HIE and the complications that will follow your child for the rest of his or her life. You may be able to pursue compensation for the harm done to your child by the medical personnel you trusted.

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The Talaska Law Firm

The Talaska Law Firm

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