A Guide to Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy Birth Injuries

At Beam Legal Team, our Chicago-based birth injury lawyers have fought for numerous families across the country in lawsuits involving preventable birth injuries and medical malpractice. These include many cases involving hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a serious condition in which an infant’s brain suffers from a loss of oxygen, or birth asphyxia.

Although some minimal reduction of oxygen can be tolerated, prolonged periods of asphyxia can result in the destruction of brain cells, permanent brain damage, and death. When HIE occurs, babies can suffer from severe cognitive and development delays, impaired motor function, and other life-altering conditions.

Because families with children who have suffered hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy during birth can face devastating consequences, understanding HIE is critical to understanding whether there are grounds for a birth injury lawsuit, which can provide the compensation and financial resources families need to care for their child as they age and develop. As such, our legal team has compiled a brief guide to help you learn more.

Causes & Prevention

Birth asphyxia is the most significant risk factor for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, and the severity and duration of minimal reduction of oxygen will affect whether HIE will result and how severe it will be. When it comes to causes of minimal reduction of oxygen, there are many potential risk factors, including:

  • Preeclampsia
  • Cardiac complications
  • Internal bleeding
  • Placental abruption
  • Uterine rupture
  • Trauma during labor or delivery
  • Umbilical cord complications
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Hyperstimulation caused by Pitocin or Cytotec
  • Fetal stroke
  • Failure to perform a C-section or delayed C-section
  • Failure to timely perform head cooling

Because asphyxia is the greatest risk factor, preventing HIE rests on reducing risks of minimal reduction of oxygen during labor and delivery. This means medical professionals need to be aware of potential risk factors and provide appropriate care when they are present, continually monitor fetus and mother during delivery, act in a timely and appropriate manner when complications arise, and initiate treatment or medical intervention correctly.

Birth Injury Lawsuits

Failures on the part of any medical professional during pregnancy, labor, and delivery can dramatically increase risks of HIE and other serious conditions or long-term effects resulting from lack of oxygen and brain damage, such as:

  • Seizures
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Developmental delays
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Cerebral palsy

When newborns do suffer HIE or related birth injuries as a result of substandard care, families have the legal right to pursue a birth injury lawsuit and a financial recovery of their damages. However, they will need to provide evidence that medical professionals failed in some way to avoid negligence and provide acceptable care, and that their failures resulted in HIE, various impairments, and other relevant damages.

Protecting Your Right to Compensation

While there are legal pathways in place which families can navigate following preventable birth injuries, it is important to note that compensation is never automatic or guaranteed, especially as health care providers and insurance companies work diligently to dispute claims and deny or underpay victims. By working with experienced birth injury lawyers who have the insight, professional connections, and resources required of these challenges cases, families can level the playing field and position themselves to succeed in their legal action.

For more information about hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy and birth injury lawsuits, you can contact our legal team at Beam Legal Team for a free consultation. Our attorneys work with clients throughout the country, and are available to discuss your rights and potential case personally.

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