HIE and Its Disastrous Effects

HIE is a devastating condition that babies are sometimes born with. Find out about the causes and symptoms here, as well as who can help!

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, also known as HIE and commonly referred to as intrapartum asphyxia, is a brain injury that occurs at birth. During labour and childbirth, there may be times when the oxygen supply to the baby is decreased significantly. While infants can survive a short period of time without oxygen, if that time stretches out for too long, it will destroy a child’s brain tissue. This can have devastating effects, as HIE is the leading cause of death or severe impairment among newborns. If you or a loved one has recently had a baby, and you believe they may have been born with HIE, call us at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP at (212) 986-7353.

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What Are Some Causes of HIE?

Anything that deprives a baby of oxygen for an extended period of time during labour and childbirth can cause HIE. The most common causes are:

  • Placental insufficiency, when the placenta cannot deliver an adequate supply of nutrients and oxygen to the baby
  • A rupture in the uterus
  • Knots in the umbilical cord, either during pregnancy or during childbirth
  • Compressed umbilical cord
  • Shoulder dystocia, when one or both of the baby’s shoulders become stuck or wedged against the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery
  • Cord prolapse, when the umbilical cord travels through the mother’s cervix before the baby, which places additional pressure and compression of the umbilical cord
  • Blood clotting disorders in the mother
  • Fetal maternal hemorrhage, when the baby’s blood cells become lost to the mother’s blood cells
  • Extremely low blood pressure in the mother
  • Blood clots in the placenta
  • Ruptured aneurysm
  • Heart failure
  • Near-SIDS events, when the baby has unexplained apnea but is able to be revived

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Symptoms of Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy

HIE occurs in two stages. The first stage is immediately after the initial oxygen deprivation, and the baby may start to show signs and symptoms immediately following the birth. The second stage is known as a "reperfusion injury" and occurs when the oxygenated blood flow starts to return to the brain. Injury is caused at this time because the damaged cells start to release their toxins.

Some of the most common symptoms of HIE are:

  • Heart rate is low or non-existent
  • Breathing is slow, irregular, shallow, or the baby is not breathing at all
  • Greenish or yellowish appearance to the amniotic fluid
  • Seizures
  • "Floppy" muscles that have little or no tone
  • Blue or very pale in skin tone
  • Reflexes are slow or absent
  • Apgar score of less than three, especially if it lasts more than five minutes

When newborns exhibit any of these symptoms immediately after or shortly following their birth, it’s important that parents speak to a New York personal injury attorney that can help them through this difficult process.

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Diagnosing and Treating HIE

While tools such as ultrasounds and MRIs can be used to diagnose HIE, the Sarnat Scale is the one that’s most often used. This grading system is similar to the Apgar test, but is specifically designed for diagnosing HIE using a combination of clinical and EEG findings.

In order to treat HIE, therapeutic hypothermia, or a cooling of the body, is the most effective. This can involve placing cooling patches over the baby’s body, or a cooling cap can be worn. While this has shown to reduce death and disability in many cases, sadly this treatment cannot be used for all cases of HIE, as the most tragic cases are fatal.

HIE is a condition that’s contracted at birth, and it can be devastating for the child and their entire family. If you have recently had a baby born with HIE in New York, call us at (212) 986-7353. At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP we are the experienced New York birth injury lawyers that will review your case, and help you through the next steps.

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Additional Information

Our Birth Injury Case Results

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