Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) and Georgia Birth Injuries
The human brain is complex and surprisingly resilient, but it can also be quite vulnerable to damage. That's particularly true of the developing brain of a fetus or newborn baby. If the brain doesn't get enough oxygen during labor and delivery, the result can be a type of brain damage called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which can cause serious birth injuries.
How HIE occurs
During labor and delivery, the baby is supposed to get oxygen from the mother's body via the umbilical cord. Several complications can restrict the oxygen supply, including:
- Umbilical cord is damaged
- Umbilical cord is tangled or wrapped around the baby's neck
- Uterus ruptures
- Placenta becomes detached from the uterus (placental abruption)
- Baby's heart and lungs are not fully developed
- Hypertension and preeclampsia in the mother
- Certain infections
- Prolonged labor
Premature babies are particularly at risk of HIE, but it can happen in babies born at full term, as well. Doctors need to carefully monitor the baby's heart rate throughout labor and delivery. Some fluctuation in heart rate is normal, but if the baby's heart rate falls below 110 beats per minute (bpm) or above 160 bpm, that can be a sign that the baby is in distress. At that point, doctors need to intervene to prevent brain damage, which may mean inducing or enhancing labor or even performing a c-section. Treatments such as head cooling and whole-body cooling can help the brain recover safely and minimize damage.
If HIE is not properly prevented or treated, serious and permanent birth injuries can follow, including:
Medical negligence and legal options for Georgia families
Birth is a complex and difficult process, and we don't expect doctors to be perfect. Making sure the baby's brain is getting enough oxygen is not an obscure or secondary concern. Every medical professional who works in labor and delivery is taught the importance of monitoring the baby's heart rate and intervening if it drops too low. When doctors fail to monitor or fail to intervene in a timely manner, children get hurt, and their families have legal recourse under Georgia law.
If your child sustained a brain injury due to HIE, there is a good chance that medical malpractice was involved. A Georgia attorney can help you understand your rights and options during a free consultation.