Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Before Birth Linked to ADHD in Children

A recent study by the Kaiser Permanente Foundation has found evidence that oxygen deprivation prior to birth puts children at a higher risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Specifically, the study states that children who experienced ischemic-hypoxic conditions (lack of oxygen and blood to the brain) ran the highest risk. There are different forms of ischemic-hypoxic conditions such as birth asphyxia, preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), and neonatal respiratory distress syndrome. This study examined about 82,000 medical records of children ages 5-11 and found:

    • Birth asphyxia was associated with a 26% greater risk of developing ADHD
    • Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome was associated with a 47% greater risk
    • Preeclampsia was associated with a 34% greater risk
  • The connection between ischemic-hypoxic conditions and ADHD were strongest in premature deliveries and certain birth injury cases, which included:
    • Transverse (shoulder-first) birth
    • Umbilical cord issues

Implications for Those Impacted by HIE and ADHD

Early detection and rapid treatment is most effective in treating ADHD. This study can help doctors identify the newborns most at-risk for ADHD based on ischemic-hypoxic incidents and risk factors, allowing them to begin treatment sooner.

Medical Negligence’s Role in Disabilities (Including ADHD)

ADHD is not the only disability caused by hypoxic-ischemic conditions. Cerebral palsy, intellectual impairments and a variety of other physical, mental and cognitive disabilities are also related. Many are preventable and are due to the negligence of obstetricians, nurses and other medical professionals.  If your child was diagnosed with ADHD and other disabilities, it’s wise to have his or her medical records reviewed by a qualified birth injury attorney to determine if the injury was the fault of someone else. Call Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers: Birth Injury Lawyers at 888-419-2229.


  • In Utero Exposure to Ischemic-Hypoxic Conditions and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, by Darios Getahun, George G. Rhoads, Kitaw Demissie, Shou-En Lu, Virginia P. Quinn, Michael J. Fassett, Deborah A. Wing, and Steven J. Jacobsen. Pediatrics 2013; 131:1 e53-e61; online – published ahead of print December 10, 2012, doi:10.1542/peds.2012-1298.
  • Kaiser Permanente Southern California, “Kaiser Permanente Study Finds Association between Oxygen Deprivation Before Birth and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” http://xnet.kp.org/newscenter/ pressreleases/nat/2012/121012-prenatal-adhd-causes.html