If an infant is harmed (by a medical complication and/or negligent actions of medical professionals) during or around the time of birth, this is considered a birth injury. When many people hear the term “birth injury,” they are likely to think of, for example, broken or fractured bones. However, many birth injuries involve more systemic issues such as oxygen deprivation.
Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of birth injury in which the baby’s brain is damaged due to insufficient flow of oxygenated blood.
In order to reach a baby in utero, oxygen molecules must travel through both the maternal and fetal bloodstreams, in the following pathway:
- Mother’s lungs
- Mother’s heart
- Mother’s vasculature
- Mother’s uterus
- Umbilical cord
An interruption at any point along this pathway can deprive the fetus of oxygenated blood, and potentially result in HIE. The following are just a few examples of complications and medical errors that can cause of HIE and other birth injuries:
- Uterine rupture
- Placental abruption
- Placenta previa
- Umbilical cord issues (e.g. umbilical cord prolapse or umbilical cord knot)
- Mismanagement of a high-risk pregnancy (e.g. one involving preeclampsia or gestational diabetes)
- Improper fetal monitoring
- Medication errors (e.g. misuse of the labor-enhancing drugs Pitocin and Cytotec)
- Mismanagement of a neonatal health condition such as respiratory distress, jaundice, or neonatal hypoglycemia
In some cases, excessive pressure on a baby’s head (during the labor and delivery process) can cause an interruption in blood flow within the brain. This can also result in hypoxic-ischemic injury.
HIE, birth injuries, and medical malpractice
Doctors and nurses have a legal obligation to provide high-quality care to their patients. If a medical professional does not follow standard of care (defined as what a reasonably qualified and attentive peer would have done in their shoes), and this causes harm, it constitutes medical malpractice. Unfortunately, HIE is often linked to malpractice.
HIE can cause serious health conditions and permanent disorders (such as cerebral palsy or an intellectual disability), which can require extensive medical treatments and other costly resources. Pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit with a lawyer who focuses on birth injury cases can help families afford the many expenses associated with raising a child with HIE.
Legal help: about ABC Law Centers
The HIE Help Center is run by ABC Law Centers, a medical malpractice firm exclusively handling cases involving HIE and other birth injuries. Our lawyers have over 100 years of combined experience with this type of law, and have been advocating for children with HIE and related disabilities since the firm’s inception in 1997.
We are passionate about helping families obtain the compensation necessary to cover their extensive medical bills, loss of wages (if one or both parents have to miss work in order to care for their child), assistive technology, and other necessities.
If you suspect your child’s HIE may have been caused by medical negligence, please contact us today to learn more about pursuing a case. We provide free legal consultations, during which we will inform you of your legal options and answer any questions you have. Moreover, you would pay nothing throughout the entire legal process unless we obtain a favorable settlement.
You are also welcome to reach out to us with inquiries that are not related to malpractice. We cannot provide individualized medical advice, but we’re happy to track down informational resources for you.