Long-Term Outcomes and Care
The ways in which hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) will impact an individual child depend on the location and extent of oxygen deprivation-related brain damage (birth asphyxia). Long-term harm can often be minimized or avoided entirely with administration of hypothermia therapy very shortly after birth (current practice dictates this must begin within six hours of the initial insult). If hypoxic-ischemic brain damage is allowed to set in, however, it can result in serious disabilities. Although many of the conditions stemming from HIE cannot be cured, various types of supportive treatments and therapies can go a long way in improving the health and function of a child with HIE.
Predicting the Effects of HIE Based on Location of Brain Damage
Different parts of the brain control different bodily functions, so the effects of HIE are determined by what areas are damaged:
- Damage to the cerebrum can affect movement, reasoning, memory, perception, and judgment.
- Damage to the cerebellum can result in issues with movement and motor control, as well as certain aspects of cognitive function, such as language and attention.
- Damage to the brainstem can cause trouble with critical functions like respiration, heartbeat, and blood pressure.
For more detailed information about damage to different parts of the brain and resultant conditions, please click here.
Conditions Resulting From HIE
The outcomes of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy can range from no lasting damage at all to severe, permanent disabilities. Some problems caused by HIE may not become apparent until certain developmental milestones are missed, at which point a child may be given one or more secondary diagnoses. Conditions that may emerge in children with HIE include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Epilepsy and seizure disorders
- Motor disorders
- Developmental delays
- Speech delays
- Learning disabilities
- Behavioral and emotional disorders
- Hearing impairments
- Visual impairments
- Feeding problems, nutritional concerns, and oral health issues
- Pain symptoms
- Respiratory conditions
- Skin issues
- Orthopedic issues
- Mental health conditions
Treatment and Therapy for Children with HIE
Besides hypothermia therapy, which must be given within six hours of the oxygen-depriving incident, medical care for children with HIE is mainly supportive; this means that it is aimed at improving symptoms rather than addressing the underlying causes.
Medications for children with HIE and co-occurring conditions such as cerebral palsy may include muscle relaxants (such as baclofen or botox) to improve motor control, anticonvulsant medications to inhibit seizure activity, and anti-inflammatory drugs to decrease pain.
Children with HIE may also require certain types of medical equipment, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, feeding tubes, vagus nerve stimulators (to control seizures), and ventilators.
Surgeries are also often needed in order to improve health and function in children with HIE. These may include selective dorsal rhizotomy (aimed at destroying malfunctioning nerves in the spinal cord), airway obstruction removal, strabismus correction (which can help restore binocular vision), and tendon or muscle lengthening procedures.
There are also many types of therapy that can improve physical ability, independence, and mental state. These include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, recreational therapy, and more.
Cerebral palsy is one of the most common conditions caused by HIE. For that reason, parents of young children with HIE may gain a better understanding of long-term outcomes and care from reading our page on treatments and therapies for cerebral palsy.
Legal Help for HIE
Here, we have reviewed just a few examples of the medications, equipment, surgeries, and therapies that may be needed by children with HIE. Requirements may vary greatly from individual to individual. Children with severe HIE may also require round-the-clock care from medical professionals, which can be very expensive.
HIE is often the result of birth injuries, which can stem from medical malpractice. If you believe that your doctor or hospital behaved negligently, leading to permanent damage, the attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers can help. Our award-winning attorneys 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 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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