Birth injuries and birth trauma are far too common in the United States.  Every year, thousands of infants will be born with life-threatening conditions that are the result of a medical mistake by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional.  The most serious birth injuries are caused when a lack of oxygen damages a child’s brain.  At The Yost Legal Group, our legal team wants to educate people about the dangers of these injuries, as well as their causes, symptoms and treatments.

When a shortage of oxygen (hypoxia) also causes the fetal heart rate to slow and reduce blood flow (ischemia) the infant has suffered a hypoxic ischemic episode.  If the hypoxic-ischemic episode during labor and delivery (the perinatal period) is severe enough to damage the brain, it leads within 12 to 36 hours to a brain injury known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).

Newborns with HIE will experience symptoms including seizures, epileptic activity, low muscle tone (hypotonia), irregular heartbeat, irregular breathing, poor feeding ability, and low to very low activity levels.  Immediately following delivery, HIE is indicated by very low Apgar scores at 1 and 5 minutes,  and/or the need to resuscitate the newborn by using a bag-valve-mask (“bagging” the infant), administering supplemental oxygen, intubating the baby and performing chest compressions on the baby.

These infants will have abnormal test results such as an umbilical cord blood gas test confirming metabolic acidosis, electroencephalogram (EEG) results documenting abnormal electrical activity in the brain, and abnormal brain MRI images documenting brain bleeding, brain lesions and which regions of the brain have been affected by dying brain cells (apoptosis) and damaged brain tissue (necrosis).  Infants with HIE require neonatal intensive care and typically spend several weeks in the NICU.  A baby with HIE may be transferred, via ambulance or life flight, from the hospital where the birth occurred to a higher level NICU if the birth hospital does not have a high-level NICU.

The only effective treatment for HIE is to lower the newborn baby’s brain temperature.  Brain cooling techniques include either a cooling blanket, for whole-body cooling, or selective head cooling protocol.  The lowered body temperature (hypothermia) is maintained for 72 hours and is followed by a rewarming phase.  Clinical trials have shown that for every degree a baby’s body temperature is lowered, the baby’s brain and body functions slow down by 10 to 15 percent and this “braking” can slow and stop the brain damage that occurs when brain cells are demanding a greater supply of oxygen than the body has available.   Head cooling or total body cooling has been shown to decrease death and disability in infants with moderate HIE but has less benefit in infants with severe HIE.    Infants with severe HIE may go on to develop profound lifelong injuries, including a severe form of cerebral palsy (CP) known as spastic quadriplegia; seizure disorders, including epilepsy; impaired growth of the brain and skull (microcephaly); and,  global developmental delays.

Doctors do not always tell you when they have made a mistake, or if your child’s injuries were preventable. If you would like to discuss your child’s potential claim arising from HIE or CP, the attorneys at Yost Legal Group are experienced professionals ready to investigate your claim with compassion and determination.  For a free consultation, please call us at 1-800-YOSTLAW. There is no fee or expense unless you recover. Call, text, or email us today to start the process.