Delayed C-Section and Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Lawyers | Our Birth Injury Litigation Experience

The award-winning attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have helped dozens of children affected by hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), many of whom developed HIE as the result of a delayed C-section. Throughout this page, we will discuss delayed emergency C-sections, and how these can lead to HIE and related conditions such as cerebral palsy (CP).


Failure to Conduct Emergency C-Sections in Cases of Fetal Distress

It is the standard of care to begin monitoring a baby’s heart rate the moment a mother goes into labor. A fetal heart rate monitor records the mother’s contractions and the baby’s heart rate in response to contractions. The medical team must also pay very close attention to signs of maternal health conditions and fetal distress (i.e., infant oxygen deprivation).

When an unborn baby is experiencing a lack of oxygen to his or her brain, it will manifest on the fetal heart monitor as a non-reassuring fetal heart tracing. When this occurs, the medical team may try to alleviate the distress with medical interventions, such as giving the mother oxygen or fluids and repositioning her. In most cases, delivery by emergency C-section must take place when fetal distress occurs. Thus, if the medical team is performing interventions to try and relieve the baby’s distress, preparations for a C-section should be initiated simultaneously. A delayed emergency C-section can cause long periods of oxygen deprivation, which can lead to  permanent brain damage and birth injuries, such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy (CP).

The following are some reasons why medical teams may fail to recognize fetal distress and perform emergency C-sections:

  • They lack skill in heart rate monitor interpretation
  • They fail to closely watch the fetal heart rate strips
  • They do not have the monitor properly attached
  • The hospital has not appropriately staffed each shift, and there are not enough skilled obstetricians available for emergencies

For more information on conditions that may require an emergency C-section, and what can happen when one is not promptly performed, please click here.


An Example Case Involving Delayed C-Section

$16 Million Obtained for a Child Who Has Cerebral Palsy & Developmental Delays

The attorneys at Reiter & Walsh obtained a $4.75 million settlement (total annuity payout: $16 million) for a little girl who was born with severe brain damage. The girl’s injuries occurred as the result of a delayed delivery when fetal distress was evident on the fetal heart rate monitor.

The Case

From the time the mother arrived at the hospital, medical personnel failed to properly monitor both her and her baby. Shortly after arriving at her hospital’s labor and delivery unit complaining of labor and contractions, the mother was told she was not ready to deliver, and she was sent home. The mother came back to the hospital a couple of hours later, and the physicians and residents used Pitocin to induce labor.

The baby’s heart rate tracings were non-reassuring over a 24-hour period, and her umbilical cord was compressed. Umbilical cord compression is a known cause of fetal oxygen deprivation and HIE. The medical team encouraged vaginal delivery, but active pushing caused very concerning fetal heart tracings. An emergency C-section delivery was finally ordered, but it was too late. The little girl was born with very low Apgar scores, which are scores used to help assess the overall health of a baby and the likelihood that the baby will need medical intervention. Her scores were 0 at one minute and 0 at five minutes, and she wasn’t breathing. Resuscitation maneuvers were initiated right after birth, but the medical team had difficulty placing the breathing tube in the little girl’s airway. After several failed attempts at placing the tube, the physicians finally succeeded at securing her airway.

The HIE Diagnosis

Blood drawn from the newborn’s umbilical cord showed that her blood was very acidic, which is an indication that she was deprived of oxygen for a significant period of time. She began having seizures, which is also an indication that she experienced an oxygen-depriving insult. In fact, HIE is the most common cause of seizures in the newborn period. When head imaging of the baby was performed, it showed brain damage consistent with HIE. In spite of being given hypothermia treatment for 72 hours for her HIE, the little girl was soon diagnosed with cerebral palsy and profound developmental delays.

Reiter & Walsh claimed that the fetal heart monitor tracings showed non-reassuring heart tones and excessive stimulation (hyperstimulation) of the womb, which required immediate delivery by C-section in order to avoid brain damage caused by asphyxia. The delayed C-section caused the baby’s brain to be deprived of oxygen for too long, which caused HIE, seizures, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays.

Trusted Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy Lawyers

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy cases require specific experience to pursue due to the complex nature of the medical records.  The award-winning birth injury attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have decades of joint experience with birth injury, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), and cerebral palsy cases. To find out if you have a case, contact our firm to speak with one of our hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy lawyers. We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case. We give personal attention to each child and family we help, and are available 24/7 to speak with you.

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Video: Lawyers Discuss Birth Asphyxia And Medical Malpractice
hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) lawyers discuss birth asphyxia
In this video, Michigan hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) lawyers Jesse Reiter and Rebecca Walsh discuss birth asphyxia and how the condition often causes HIE, seizures, and cerebral palsy.


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