The parents of babies who are affected by hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) during childbirth are often devastated by their children’s diagnosis and injuries. An attorney experienced in HIE law in Indianapolis can build a strong case for a medical malpractice claim and recover compensation for the injury suffered.

What is Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is an injury caused by a lack of oxygen supply to a baby’s brain. Hypoxia refers to the lack of sufficient oxygen in the blood. Ischemia means a shortage of blood flowing to the baby, while encephalopathy is the actual damage caused by a lack of oxygen flow to the baby’s brain.

Any reduction of oxygen flow to a baby’s brain in the weeks before, during, and after birth can prove fatal to the baby. Babies need circulation to provide oxygen to their cells. Depriving cells of oxygen in babies will cause the cells to die.

In some cases, cells that lack oxygen can begin to produce lactic acid and toxins. These substances can then circulate all over the body through the bloodstream, thereby increasing the harm done to the baby.

HIE causes hyperactivity, attention disorders, and epilepsy. It can also damage the baby’s organs, such as the heart, kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. Extreme cases of HIE can be detected shortly after delivery, while milder cases may go undetected until the affected children grow older.

Dangers of HIE

The effects of HIE can be permanent and severe. Below is a list of potential effects of HIE:

Cerebral Palsy

This general term encapsulates a disorder affecting the child’s ability to move, maintain balance and posture, and speak. Cerebral palsy, if not identified at birth, will be diagnosed when the child fails to attain growth landmarks associated with certain ages. Extreme cases of cerebral palsy may leave the child paralyzed.

Cognitive Issues

HIE also affects the child’s cognitive development and actions. The extent of the child’s cognitive damage depends on the severity of the HIE. In extreme cases, the child may suffer mental retardation. Mental retardation affects the ability to learn, make decisions, relate socially, and retain memories.

Vision and Hearing Impairment

HIE is a common cause of cortical vision impairment (CVI). CVI means that the part of the child’s brain that aids vision is damaged due to oxygen deprivation. HIE-induced CVI may lead to tunnel vision or strabismus. Additionally, HIE may cause damage to the child’s inner ear. Hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Causes of HIE

Some of the causes of HIE include:

  • Placental trauma
  • Fetal stroke
  • Eclampsia
  • Complications with umbilical cord
  • Abdominal trauma
  • Uterine complications
  • Excessive maternal sedation from anesthesia

When any of the above situations occur, oxygen is redirected from the child’s brain to the heart and lungs, which helps to keep them alive. However, this causes the brain cells to begin to die. The longer the baby’s brain goes without oxygen, the more the child’s brain cells die. As such, the situation can quickly become extremely serious.

You may be entitled to compensation if you suspect that your child’s HIE injury was due to medical negligence. An Indianapolis HIE lawyer can review your case and advise on whether to file a personal injury claim.

How to Detect HIE in a Baby

HIE develops in three stages, and it is diagnosed based on the signs and symptoms in each stage:

Stage 1 – Mild HIE

  • Stiffness and hyper-alertness
  • Overreactive tendon reflexes
  • Decreased muscle tone
  • Irritability
  • Poor feeding
  • Excessive crying or sleepiness

Stage 2 – Moderate HIE

  • Sluggish sucking and grasping reflexes
  • Apnea and seizures

Stage 3 –Severe HIE

  • Coma
  • Not responding to stimuli
  • Irregular breathing
  • Decreased muscle tone
  • Heart rate irregularities 

The 3 Factors of an HIE Injury Claim 

  1. An HIE lawyer in Indianapolis will need to prove to the court that the medical personnel named as the defendant treated the child or operated on him. As such, doctors are bound by the duty of care to follow the accepted procedure to provide standard treatment to the child.
  2. The attorney must prove that the medical personnel failed to follow the safety procedures and were negligent in carrying out their duty. This negligence must be shown to have caused the child’s HIE.
  3. Lastly, the attorney must prove that the child’s family suffered and will continue to suffer harm due to the medical personnel’s negligence.

Indianapolis Medical Malpractice Lawyers for HIE Birth Injuries

Is your child suffering from HIE? If the negligence of a medical practitioner caused the injury, you might be eligible to sue them for compensation. You will most likely have a lot of questions about how to go about suing and what the process entails.

The Indianapolis HIE lawyers at Wagner Reese assist parents in analyzing the facts and establishing evidence to support birth injury claims. There is no up-front cost to you. Contact Wagner Reese’s Indianapolis office for a free and confidential case evaluation.