What Can You Do if Your Child Suffers a Hypoxic Ischemic Injury?

Birth Injury

illustration of stork delivering the letters HIE

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, also known as HIE, is a life-threatening and serious birth injury that occurs around birth. HIE causes mild to severe brain injuries, sometimes even leading to significant impairments such as cerebral palsy or other developmental conditions. For parents of children with the condition, finding the right hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy treatment is key to ensuring the best possible outcome and improving the child’s quality of life.

Here, we’ll discuss the condition, HIE treatment options, and what options are available to parents who believe their child’s HIE was caused due to malpractice or negligence.

How Might a Child Suffer an HIE?

HIE occurs when blood and oxygen are limited or cut off from a baby’s brain during birth. Without oxygen and blood flow, parts of the brain and/or brain cells begin to decay and die. HIE can happen during a variety of complications during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

Things that can cause HIE during pregnancy include maternal infections, issues with placenta blood flow, preeclampsia, and stroke. During labor and delivery, HIE can be caused by complications such as placental abruption, low maternal blood pressure, umbilical cord prolapse, and uterine rupture. Although these situations are rare, their effects can be life-threatening or cause lifelong disabilities.

What are the Resulting Signs and Symptoms?

Although rare, HIE is considered a serious brain injury. A quarter of all HIE survivors will suffer permanent brain damage ranging from mild to severe. The result can be physical disabilities and cognitive impairment. That’s why it’s so important for HIE to be diagnosed as quickly as possible so treatment can begin. Some of the signs and symptoms of HIE include:

  • Abnormal or sluggish reflexes
  • Irritability
  • Feeding issues
  • Excessive crying
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory issues
  • High or low muscle tone (very stiff or like a rag doll)
  • Apnea
  • Abnormal amount of sleep
  • Abnormal eye control
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Cardiorespiratory failure

How Do You Go About Getting a Diagnosis?

Since HIE occurs during pregnancy or at birth, doctors may suspect this form of brain injury shortly after birth if the birth was traumatic, complicated, or certain symptoms, as those discussed above, are seen in the child. However, sometimes HIE can go undiagnosed until the child is older and shows signs of motor issues, delayed development, or other HIE-related symptoms.

In terms of diagnosis, HIE is typically confirmed using imaging such as MRIs or ultrasounds to search for abnormalities. Additional tests may also be run, including but not limited to:

  • Blood Glucose Tests
  • EEGs
  • MRIs
  • CT Scans
  • Arterial Blood Gas Test

What Are Your Options if Your Child Has HIE?

Getting a diagnosis of HIE can be scary, confusing, and difficult, but knowing what treatment options and medical care are available to you can help. For those parents wondering, “Can hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy be cured?” the answer is, unfortunately, no. However, available treatments have been shown to help support children with HIE and improve their quality of life. HIE is managed in a variety of ways, including:

  • HIE seizure treatment. This includes medication.
  • HIE cooling treatment. If your infant is > 36 weeks gestation AND meets both physiological and neurological criteria, your infant should receive therapeutic hypothermia.
  • Supportive care. This includes physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and medication.

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy treatment for adults and children is constantly evolving, meaning there may be more options for treatment and support in the future. Ensuring your child gets the best possible care and medical treatment is the best thing a parent can do following an HIE diagnosis.

Did Medical Malpractice Cause Your Child’s Hypoxic Ischemic Brain Injury?

For parents of children diagnosed with a hypoxic ischemic brain injury as a result of medical malpractice, steps can be taken to seek justice and to potentially help cover the costs of things such as HIE therapy and HIE medicine. If you believe your child’s HIE was caused due to negligence, it’s important to evaluate whether seeking legal help may help ensure proper treatment and care.

The Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC have consulted with over 30,000 families nationwide. Our legal and medical experience helps to uncover the truth and recover the compensation families deserve. If your child suffered from medical malpractice that led to HIE, contact the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs today for a free, no-obligation consultation.



Reviewed by:
Trish Fletcher, MS, BSN, CRNP, NNP-BC, ALNC
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner | Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant

Tricia is a dedicated, focused, Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner with more than 25 years of experience. Her strong clinical and critical thinking skills, paired with expertise caring for neonates in a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), ensures meticulous medical records review. READ FULL BIO

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