The long-term outcomes of babies born with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) can vary widely, from no lasting effects to extensive physical and intellectual impairment requiring 24/hour care. How severely HIE affects an individual depends on a variety of factors, including:
- Severity of oxygen deprivation: If a baby’s oxygen supply is dramatically or entirely cut off, their lasting brain damage may be greater.
- Duration of oxygen deprivation: Babies deprived of oxygen for longer are more likely to have permanent health complications.
- The baby’s condition prior to the oxygen-depriving incident: For example, premature babies have more fragile brains and are more vulnerable to damage resulting from oxygen deprivation.
- Care and management after the oxygen-depriving incident: A cutting-edge treatment called therapeutic hypothermia can minimize or prevent lasting brain damage if it’s administered six hours after the baby is deprived of oxygen.
To determine the prognosis of an infant with HIE, doctors may use Sarnat staging. Sarnat staging considers clinical presentation, exam results, illness duration, and whether the baby has seizures. The mildest form of HIE is Sarnat Stage I, with Stage III being the most severe.
Children with HIE may have physical and/or intellectual disabilities, depending on which areas of the brain are affected. The ways in which it will affect an individual baby may not be completely clear until they grow older and the symptoms become more apparent. At that point, some children with HIE are diagnosed with related conditions, such as the following:
- Cerebral Palsy
- I/DD (Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities)
- Learning Disabilities
- Fetal Stroke
- Intracranial Hemorrhages (Brain Bleeds)
- Epilepsy, Seizures and Seizure Disorders
- Speech Delays and Language Disorders
- Behavioral and Emotional Disorders
- Hearing and Vision Limitations
- Nutritional Concerns
- Oral Health Issues
- Neurologic and Mental Health Concerns
- Skin Health Concerns
- Orthopedic Conditions
- Respiratory Conditions
- Sensory Processing Issues
Although many of these conditions are not curable, symptoms may be improved or managed with a variety of treatments/therapies, assistive and adaptive technologies, service animals, and other supports. To learn more about managing HIE, click here.
- van Handel, M, et al. Long-term cognitive and behavioral consequences of neonatal encephalopathy following perinatal asphyxia: a review. Eur J Pediatr. 2007 Jul; 166(7): 645–654. Published online 2007 Apr 11. doi: 10.1007/s00431-007-0437-8.
- Perez, A, et al. Long-term neurodevelopmental outcome with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. J Pediatr. 2013 Aug;163(2):454-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.02.003. Epub 2013 Mar 14.
- de Vries LS, et al. Long-term outcome after neonatal hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2010 May;95(3):F220-4. doi: 10.1136/adc.2008.148205.
- Ahearne, CE, et al. Short and long term prognosis in perinatal asphyxia: An update. World J Clin Pediatr. 2016 Feb 8; 5(1): 67–74.
Published online 2016 Feb 8. doi: 10.5409/wjcp.v5.i1.67.