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Seattle Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Attorneys


How to Recover Damages for Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), also known as birth asphyxia, is a serious condition in which the entire brain of an infant is deprived of oxygen or has a limited blood flow being directed to it. When this occurs, brain cells begin to die, which can cause extensive brain damage. In most cases, HIE is preventable, and when it does happen, doctors can often limit the amount of damage with prompt treatment. If a doctor suspects a baby suffered oxygen deprivation during birth, they are required by law to provide treatment.

Of all the things that can go wrong with neurological functions during a birth, HIE is the most common, and it can also be the most devastating. In the worst of cases, babies that are affected by HIE during their birth will not survive it, and about 25% of them will go on to live with significant brain damage. That brain damage can result in a number of mental and physical disabilities including cerebral palsy, seizures, learning disabilities, and development disabilities. The actual damage done, and the extent of that damage, will be determined by:

  • How severe the oxygen deprivation was
  • The length of time the baby was deprived of oxygen
  • The health of the baby prior to being deprived of oxygen
  • How the doctor and other medical staff managed the condition after the oxygen deprivation occurred

While we truly hope you never need our legal services in a medical malpractice lawsuit, rest assured that we are here for you and your family. Just call (888) 228-3860 for a free consultation with the Seattle birth injury lawyers at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S.

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What Can Cause Oxygen Deprivation at Birth?

Oxygen deprivation during birth can be caused by a number of conditions, all of which a competent medical team should recognize and be able to remedy. These conditions include the following:

  • Non-reassuring fetal heart rate
  • Tachysystole, when there are too many uterine contractions, often caused by overuse of Pitocin by nurses, physicians, or midwives
  • Oxytocin mismanagement
  • Hemorrhages or trauma to the infant's brain during delivery
  • Umbilical cord problems, such as a prolapsed umbilical cord that cuts off oxygen flow to the fetus, or nuchal cord (cord wrapped around the neck)
  • Excessive hemorrhaging (bleeding) while pregnant or during delivery
  • Abnormal presentation, when the baby does not enter the birth canal head-first during labor
  • Prolonged or distressed delivery, when the baby is too large to fit through the birth canal
  • Delivery involving shoulder dystocia, where one or both of the baby’s shoulders impede delivery
  • Oligohydramnios (insufficient amniotic fluid) or premature rupture of the membranes
  • Maternal shock, a complication of heavy bleeding and fetal distress
  • Placental abruption, when the placenta tears away from inner wall of the uterus before delivery
  • Conditions with the mother mismanaged, such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia, or infection
  • Failure to advise the family about a C-section for a prompt and safe delivery

Any errors made or inattention during fetal monitoring can allow hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy to develop! A cord blood gas analysis can show neonatal brain damage, so this test should be ordered right away after a difficult birth. An emergency neonatal resuscitation is necessary in some cases, and neonatal resuscitation guidelines (NRP Guidelines) require specific procedures to stop the oxygen deprivation after delivery. Subsequent brain damage (HIE) can occur if these guidelines are not followed.

There are two main types of oxygen deprivation to the brain, both of which can result in mild, moderate, or severe HIE:

  • Hypoxia is reduced oxygen to the brain. It can result in lifelong disabilities and developmental delays.
  • Anoxia is when no oxygen, at all, reaches the brain. It can cause lifelong disabilities and easily be fatal.

Doctors, midwives, and other medical staff are trained to spot fetal distress and take appropriate actions on behalf of the infant and the mother, such as ordering an emergency cesarean section. Failure to take the appropriate actions is considered medical malpractice.

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Signs and Symptoms of HIE

When an infant has suffered from HIE, there are signs and symptoms that are apparent right after the birth. The most common are:

  • Infant needs to be resuscitated after birth
  • Infant needs cold-cap or cold capping after birth
  • Low Apgar scores that last longer than 5 minutes
  • Seizures, 24 to 48 hours after delivery
  • Difficulty while feeding, including failure to latch, suck, or swallow
  • Low pH in the baby's blood, a condition known as metabolic or mixed acidemia (metabolic acidosis)
  • Low muscle tone, a condition known as hypotonia (hypotonic)
  • More limpness in arms and legs than normal
  • Problems involving multiple organs
  • Infant is in a coma upon birth
  • Treatment in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is needed.
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    What Kind of Compensation Can Be Expected for My Child's HIE?

    If your child suffered oxygen deprivation at birth, leading to HIE, they may end up suffering a number of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, brain damage, and other maladies that will affect your family's future. In such a case, you'll want compensation for your immediate expenses and future expenses as well. A lawsuit should include the following:

    • Current medical bills
    • Future medical bills
    • Costs of physical therapy
    • Costs of household and vehicle modifications to accommodate your child's handicap
    • Pain and suffering
    • Costs of special schooling if needed
    • Costs of in-home care
    • Costs of institutionalization if needed
    • Lost wages of family members who have to quit work to provide care for the child

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    Legal Help for Victims of Birth Injuries

    If you or a loved one had a baby who was diagnosed with HIE, oxygen deprivation at birth, or other birth injuries, call Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. These cases require an extensive knowledge of medicine and the law and our Seattle birth injury lawyers have both. We know how to fight medical malpractice cases, and we know how to get justice for parents. If the best day of your life has turned into one of tragedy, or your baby has suffered unnecessary birth injuries, don't hesitate another second. Call us toll-free at (888) 228-3860, and speak to one of our representatives. These cases can be some of the most difficult for parents, but Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., is here for you and your family.

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