What Causes HIE?

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, abbreviated HIE, is a type of birth injury. It occurs when an infant is deprived of blood and oxygen during delivery or around the time of delivery. The word “hypoxic” refers to the oxygen deprivation, “ischemic” refers to the blood deprivation, and “encephalopathy” tells us that the affected area is the brain.

Researchers estimate about three in 1,000 babies are affected by HIE each year.

Symptoms of HIE

HIE is a serious condition that can result in catastrophic injury or death. Babies who’ve suffered from HIE show a wide variety of symptoms, which may include the following:

  • Acidosis (the buildup of acid in the body)
  • Low Apgar scores for five minutes or more
  • Depressed or absent reflexes
  • Greenish discoloration of the amniotic fluid (stained meconium)
  • Irregular breathing that may be depressed, slow, or absent
  • Irregular, “floppy” muscle tone
  • Low heart rate / sometimes no detectable heart rate
  • Pale or bluish skin tone
  • Seizures

Diagnosing HIE

The symptoms of HIE are usually visible at birth or shortly thereafter. Health care professionals use a number of methods to detect whether a baby suffers from HIE.

These methods include testing the umbilical cord blood for gas levels, imaging tests such as MRI and ultrasound, and a diagnostic checklist called the Sarnat scale.

Possible Causes of HIE

HIE can be caused by a wide variety of conditions that occur around the time of birth. Some of these conditions include:

  • Aneurysm rupture
  • Blood clotting disorders in the mother
  • Blood clotting in the placenta
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Fetal maternal hemorrhage
  • Insufficient placenta
  • Low maternal blood pressure, if extreme
  • Near-SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) events
  • Placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the uterus)
  • Rupture of the uterus
  • Shoulder dystocia (a delivery obstruction in which the baby’s shoulder obstructs the birth canal)
  • Trauma during delivery
  • True umbilical knots
  • Umbilical cord compression
  • Umbilical cord prolapse

In some cases of HIE, there is nothing the mother or the medical team could have done to prevent the birth injury. Other instances, however, could have been prevented or the course of the condition altered due to the action or inaction of the medical staff.

Contact our Baltimore birth injury attorneys at Brown & Barron LLC if you suspect your case may involve negligence or malpractice on the part of the medical team who delivered your child.

Call (410) 698-1717 today for your free case consultation.

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