When Kentucky Newborns Lack Oxygen: Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

Oxygen. We desperately need this element; our lives depend on it. It’s something that we take for granted because it’s always there. When we don’t get enough of it, we panic.

When babies don’t get enough of it, however…

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

When babies are born, the attending medical personnel watch them closely to make sure that they are not experiencing hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen to the brain. Emergency medical intervention is absolutely critical because the resulting condition, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), can cause irreversible damage to an infant’s brain.

According to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, HIE may occur during any of the three periods of labor and delivery. Following are the stages and possible reasons for HIE:

Antepartum—before labor and delivery:

  • placental insufficiency;
  • umbilical cord accidents;
  • viral infections;
  • growth retardation; or
  • congenital heart disease.

Intrapartum—during labor and delivery:

  • placental abruption;
  • umbilical cord prolapse;
  • shoulder dystocia;
  • abnormal cord insertion; or
  • maternal cardiovascular events.

            Postpartum—after labor and delivery:

  • infections;
  • aspiration that causes an asphyxia event; or
  • blood vessel abnormality in the brain.

Possible Outcomes of HIE

Oxygen deprivation is responsible for the majority of perinatal brain injuries—from 22 weeks’ gestation to 7 days after birth. Infants with HIE have an increased risk of dying around the time of birth or of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Oxygen deprivation is also suspected of being a primary or contributing factor in the following conditions:

  • learning disabilities;
  • mental retardation;
  • cerebral palsy;
  • epilepsy;
  • ADHD; and
  • eating disorders.

Treatment for HIE

When babies are born with HIE, the medical staff usually put them on a ventilator to help them breathe, closely monitor their blood pressure, and treat them for any symptoms—for example, seizures. A fairly recent type of treatment is cooling therapy, in which the infant is either laid on a cooling blanket or fitted with a cooling cap for 72 hours beginning within 6 hours after birth. Research has shown that lowering the baby’s body temperature to a hypothermic state (92.3° to 95° F) may interrupt neurological damage.

Although HIE has become easier to prevent, diagnose, and treat, it is still a challenge to ob/gyns and midwives. And, of course, it is a cause of fear to couples anticipating the birth of a child.

If your baby was born in a Louisville hospital with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or another birth injury, get in touch with the Kentucky birth injury attorneys at Gray and White Law. Call us at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation.