When a child is deprived of oxygen at birth, it can quickly cause brain damage. One of the most common types of brain damage caused by oxygen loss is called “hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy,” or HIE. It is also diagnosed as perinatal encephalopathy, perinatal asphyxia, neonatal encephalopathy or birth asphyxia. By any name, HIE is a leading cause of death or severe impairment among infants.
How a Birth Injury Lawyer Can Help
If your child suffers from perinatal encephalopathy, it could have been caused by medical negligence during prenatal care, labor, delivery or postnatal care. A Long Island birth injury attorney at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP is ready to help. Our law firm can have our medical professionals review your medical records to determine whether you have a viable medical malpractice lawsuit. Our New York hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy lawyers have helped many families recover compensation for their child’s lifelong needs and challenges.
You may be able to recover compensation for preventable HIE, cerebral palsy or another oxygen-deprivation birth injury that was caused by medical malpractice. Contact a birth trauma lawyer in Long Island today for a free case evaluation. Our law firm pursues birth injury cases for families in Long Island. Se Habla español.
What is Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)?
Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE, is a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation. Its name describes it – hypoxic (lack of oxygen), ischemic (restricted blood flow to the brain), encephalopathy (affecting the brain).
Oxygen deprivation that leads to HIE may occur prior to birth, during the birth process, soon after birth or during childhood, such as in a near-drowning or accidental strangulation. The brain can recover from short periods of lack of oxygen. But lack of oxygen kills brain cells and,if it lasts too long, the damage done can be permanent, if not fatal.
The lack of oxygen that leads to HIE in birth may be caused by:
- Placental insufficiency
- Ruptured uterus
- Placental abruption
- True umbilical knots
- Umbilical cord compression
- Umbilical cord prolapse
- Maternal blood clotting disorders
- Fetomaternal hemorrhage
- Extremely low maternal blood pressure
- Trauma during delivery
- Placental blood clots
- Shoulder dystocia
- Aneurysm rupture
- Cardiac arrest
- Near-SIDS events.
If there was an indication of asphyxia (oxygen deprivation) during birth, a nurse or doctor may use such diagnostic tools as the Sarnat Scale, which stages or classifies HIE severity based on how the baby appears; imaging tests, such as EEG to measure brain waves, ultrasound or MRI to look at the brain; and/or checking umbilical cord blood gas levels.Organ dysfunction shortly after birth, especially of the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and blood, is a potential indication of HIE. Seizures in the first 24 hours of life can also indicate the possibility of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.
A baby presenting indications of HIE may be treated with therapeutic hypothermia, or cooling, which has been shown to reduce death and disability in many cases. Cooling can be done on the whole body, or through a cooling cap on the head.
The baby may also need medical intervention to support his or her organs or to treat seizures.
Potential Complications of HIE
Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy is most common in full-term infants, although it occurs in premature infants, as well.
The timing and severity of asphyxia can determine what area of the brain is injured. The area of the brain that is affected will have a significant bearing on the child’s symptoms.
Babies who survive HIE may suffer from:
- Epilepsy – a neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions
- Developmental delays – late achievement of growth milestones, such as sitting up, pulling up, cruising, walking, talking
- Motor impairment – loss of function in one or more limbs, including muscle weakness, poor stamina, lack of muscle control, or paralysis
- Neurodevelopmental delays – late maturity of emotion, self-control, memory, learning ability
- Cognitive impairment – problems remembering, learning, concentrating, making decisions.
When diagnosed, HIE will be described as mild, moderate or severe. Usually, the severity of impairment from HIE cannot be fully determined until the child is 3 to 4 years old.
The brain damage done by HIE is permanent, but physical and occupational therapy can help the child gain strength and some muscle control. Epileptic seizures may be controlled with medication.
Can I File A Lawsuit Over HIE Birth Injury?
Birth injuries like HIE may occur because the attending obstetrician, obstetric nurse or other delivery team member failed to recognize a medical problem, did not follow accepted practices, panicked when an emergency arose or simply failed to properly monitor the expectant mother and her child.
Medical malpractice is an error on the part of one or more health care providers whose performance falls short of the accepted standard of care and results in harm to a patient.
Pursuing a medical malpractice claim on behalf of a child afflicted with HIE requires being able to demonstrate:
- A physician-patient relationship. You must be able to show that the medical professional you are accusing of malpractice was treating your child. This is sometimes called establishing a “duty of care.” This is not usually an issue.
- The medical professional was negligent. It is not enough that something went wrong during delivery. There are risks in birth. The facts must show that the medical care provider failed to do something or took some action that a reasonably skilled and careful professional would not have done in the same situation.
- Medical negligence or error caused harm. The evidence must show a connection between the medical care provider’s negligence or preventable error and child injury. In addition, the injury must be compensable, which means it can be made better with a monetary payment. For example, a monetary award could pay for extraordinary postnatal treatment a child with HIE required.
- Your case merits damages. Medical malpractice claims are complicated and expensive to pursue. There must be a strong likelihood that a jury would return an award that covers the tens of thousands of dollars required to mount a claim, including attorneys’ fees, and provide money to you. A very mild case of HIE might not meet this test, for example. However, if a child’s impairments from HIE were expected to adversely affect his or herability to perform major life activities, then you should consult with medical malpractice attorney about your case.
At the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, if we believe your case has merit, our first step would be to help you obtain your and your child’s medical records. We would then have a medical professional familiar review the medical files, probably starting with an obstetric nurse. As we get feedback questioning the medical treatment you and/or your child received, we would have additional medical professionals examine your records.
Pursuing Your HIE Lawsuit
If these independent medical professionals’ reviews suggest you have a viable claim, we would pursue your case aggressively by filing a lawsuit on your behalf. In preparation for the lawsuit, we would calculate the cost of your child’s present and future medical expenses. The lasting harm of HIE may mean your child will need years or a lifetime of special care, including assistive devices, therapy, and special education.
Our birth injury lawyers work with many medical and economic professionals to anticipate needs and project the costs that should be covered in compensation to you.
Future cost projections should take into consideration the parents’ losses due to additional time away from employment that is spent as the child’s caregiver, as well as for their emotional pain and anguish. Compensation would also be due to the child’s pain, suffering and potential monetary losses due to fewer participation opportunities in childhood and potentially limited education, employment, dating and marriage opportunities as a youth and adult.
If we can pursue a claim on your family’s behalf, our lawyers would meet with the lawyers representing the negligent doctor and seek to negotiate a settlement. Sometimes we are able to reach an out-of-court settlement that covers your needs and spares you the ordeal of a trial. If we proved unable to come to a settlement agreement, we would be ready to prepare and present a persuasive case in court.
Contact the NY Birth Injury Lawyers of Cohen & Jaffe
If your child has been diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, he or she may require years or a lifetime of special care. Our birth injury lawyers can work with several professionals to examine the medical care you and your child received and, if medical malpractice caused your child’s HIE, project the costs that you need to recover to ensure your financial recovery and stability for the future.
We handle birth injury claims on a contingency fee basis. A compassionate perinatal asphyxia lawyer from the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP in Long Island, New York, can have your case reviewed by our medical experts at no cost to you. If we pursue a claim on your behalf, there are no attorney fees unless we recover compensation for you. Our team can also help you with such issues as finding doctors, specialists or other resources to help you and your child.
To set up a free consultation, call our New York HIE birth injury attorney or contact us online today. We speak Spanish and Russian.
For a free legal consultation with a perinatal encephalopathy lawyer serving Long Island, call 516-358-6900