What’s the relationship between hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy?

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) can cause cerebral palsy (CP), though the two do not always appear together. Brain damage from HIE can manifest in several different ways, including cognitive impairments, vision and hearing issues, and motor difficulties. Cerebral palsy is a disorder that is characterized by a lack of motor function. CP is common in children whose HIE has affected regions of their brain responsible for motor control. 

What is HIE?

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen in an infant’s brain. Many people refer to HIE as birth asphyxia, intrapartum asphyxia, or neonatal encephalopathy (NE).

Lack of oxygen brain injuries

Oxygen is necessary to sustain critical cells within the body, most notably brain cells. When the brain does not receive proper oxygen, injury starts to occur in the brain and cell death begins. This damage to brain tissue — called HIE— can result in mental and physical disabilities in the child, including cerebral palsy.

The extent of the brain injury depends on the:

  • Length of time that the baby was deprived of oxygen
  • Severity of the oxygen deprivation
  • Condition of the baby prior to the oxygen-depriving event

Generally speaking, the longer a baby goes without oxygen or with decreased oxygen — the more severe and permanent their injuries will be.

What causes HIE?

HIE can be caused by many different events, conditions, and medical errors. The oxygen deprivation associated with HIE may be due to a lack of oxygen in the baby’s blood and/or decreased or restricted blood follow in the baby’s brain.

How are HIE and cerebral palsy related?

HIE can cause the brain damage that leads to cerebral palsy. It is a form of brain injury that can kill the neurons that transfer motor signals.

Cerebral palsy is motor dysfunction caused by brain injury. It is a disorder that manifests itself in motor difficulties, including muscle spasms (in some cases) and coordination difficulties.

Whether or not HIE causes cerebral palsy depends on which part of the brain is injured.

How do HIE and cerebral palsy relate to medical malpractice?

Physicians are required to meet certain standards of care. In turn, patients entrust medical staff with their healthcare under the assumption that their providers will do no harm. Medical staff should be held accountable when their actions:

  1. Do not meet those standards and
  2. Result in a child being permanently injured

If your child was injured by a medical error that resulted in cerebral palsy and/or HIE, a lawsuit can help you ensure they get the resources they need throughout their life.

Should I contact an attorney?

If your child has a cerebral palsy due to a birth injury, they may be eligible for financial compensation. Compensation from a lawsuit can help cover medical treatments, caretaking expenses, assistive technology and other forms of support that your child may require throughout their lifetime due to their disability.

It is very important to choose the right lawyer — one who is highly experienced in this specific type of litigation and genuinely cares about helping your family. The attorneys at ABC Law Centers: Birth Injury Lawyers have handled exclusively birth injury cases since 1997. We are here 24/7 to listen to your story and ease your worries. You pay us nothing until we win your case, so there’s nothing to lose in getting a consultation!

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