Ohio Birth Asphyxia and HIE Attorneys

National birth injury firm serving Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, and all other Ohio cities

Many parents whose babies experienced birth asphyxia or received a diagnosis of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) don’t know that these issues are often associated with medical malpractice. Of course, many institutions and hospitals will try to protect themselves by not providing families with the whole picture about what caused their child’s condition. Here, we provide a broad overview of birth asphyxia and HIE, so that parents can better understand what may have happened. If you would like to discuss your child’s case in more detail, please reach out to our Ohio birth asphyxia and HIE attorneys in any of the following ways. There is no cost associated with an initial consultation; in fact, clients pay nothing throughout the legal process unless we win.

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What is birth asphyxia? What is HIE?

The term “birth asphyxia” refers to oxygen deprivation during or near the time of birth. Some babies who experience birth asphyxia have hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a type of neonatal brain damage caused by insufficient flow of oxygenated blood to the brain. The incidence of HIE has been estimated to be about 1.5 per 1,000 live births (1), and it accounts for 23% of neonatal deaths worldwide. Survivors of HIE may go on to develop permanent conditions such as cerebral palsy (CP), epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities (2). 

In many cases, birth asphyxia and HIE are associated with medical malpractice during late pregnancy, labor and delivery, or the neonatal period.

Ohio Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy Attorneys


Causes of HIE

Complications often arise during pregnancy, labor, and delivery that require special attention from the medical team. If the medical team fails to provide standard of care (i.e. does what a reasonably competent peer would do if placed in their shoes), and this causes HIE or another birth injury, it constitutes medical malpractice. 

Medical complications and errors that can cause HIE include the following (3):

For more detailed information about the causes and risk factors for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, please click here.


Signs and diagnosis of HIE

If a baby endured a traumatic delivery or birth asphyxia, medical professionals should consider the possibility of HIE. In some cases, HIE can even be recognized while the baby is still in utero, if there are signs of fetal distress. Doctors should also order diagnostic tests for HIE if a baby exhibits signs and symptoms such as the following (3): 

  • Breathing problems/need for resuscitation of the newborn
  • Low APGAR Scores. An APGAR score assesses the overall health of a newborn over the first few minutes of life. It assigns scores to conditions such as the baby’s skin color and complexion, pulse rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and breathing.
  • Seizures shortly after birth
  • Difficulty feeding, including the inability to latch, suck, or swallow
  • Abnormal neonatal reflexes (e.g. the baby fails to respond to loud sounds or movement, does not grasp onto objects such as a finger, etc.)
  • Profound metabolic or mixed acidemia in an umbilical artery blood sample (the baby’s blood is acidic/has a low ph)
  • Hypotonia (low muscle tone/limpness)
  • Multiple organ problems (e.g., the involvement of the lungs, liver, heart, intestines)
  • Coma/altered consciousness

Early diagnostic tests are extremely important because more obvious signs of brain damage may not become apparent until several years after the hypoxic-ischemic insult, when a child begins to miss developmental milestones or show signs of disabilities such as cerebral palsy. If HIE is not diagnosed within hours of birth, then medical professionals miss the window to provide a critical treatment called therapeutic hypothermia (discussed in the next paragraph) and other early interventions that can minimize symptoms and maximize abilities. 


Therapeutic hypothermia and other treatments for HIE

The most effective treatment for HIE is therapeutic hypothermia (also called hypothermia therapy, neonatal cooling, and a variety of other names). It must be administered very shortly after birth/the oxygen-depriving event. Current guidelines from the Academic Medical Center Patient Safety Organization (AMC PSO) say it is indicated in babies under six hours of age, and should be considered up to 12 hours of age, provided that certain eligibility criteria are met. Therapeutic hypothermia cools down a baby’s brain and reduces the metabolic rate to give brain cells more time to heal. This treatment can prevent or minimize the extent of permanent disabilities stemming from HIE (4). The exact outcome depends on the severity of the initial injury, as well as other factors (3). In addition to therapeutic hypothermia, newborns with HIE may require supportive treatments such as the following:

  • Breathing assistance
  • Seizure medications
  • Management of fluids and electrolytes
  • Temperature management (some babies are ineligible for therapeutic hypothermia, but it is still very important for medical professionals to ensure they do not develop hyperthermia)

After the neonatal period, medical professionals generally recommend that the child be closely monitored and if necessary be enrolled in Early Intervention and therapies to help reduce the risk of developmental delays (5).


What can parents do if their child was diagnosed with HIE?

One of the most important things that parents can do is secure therapy (e.g. physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or speech therapy) for their child at a very young age. The earlier a child gets therapy, the larger their functional gains could potentially be. The second step would be to speak with a birth injury attorney, because a birth injury verdict or settlement could help pay for the costs of the child’s care that aren’t covered by medical insurance.


Trusted Ohio birth asphyxia and HIE attorneys

Legal cases involving birth asphyxia, HIE, and other birth injuries are very complicated – they require  a thorough understanding of both legal procedure and medicine, as well as a network of medical experts who can serve as consultants. That’s why it’s very important to choose a firm with extensive experience in this area of law.

Other firms that say they handle birth asphyxia and HIE cases may also take a wide variety of cases involving things like pharmaceutical issues, dog bites, slip-and-fall injuries, and car accidents. Those kinds of firms may only handle a few birth injuries a year; many handle none, and instead refer all birth injury cases to niche practice firms.

At ABC Law Centers (Reiter & Walsh, P.C.), however, we focus exclusively on birth injury. Our large verdicts and settlements, prestigious awards, and glowing client testimonials all attest to our success. Although we are based near Detroit, Michigan, we serve clients nationwide, and have had many cases in Ohio. The owner of our firm, Jesse Reiter, is admitted to practice in Ohio and in the Ohio Supreme Court. 

Please reach out to us in any of the following ways to learn more. Your information is 100% confidential, and clients pay nothing throughout the legal process unless we win.

Free Case Review | Available 24/7 | No Fee Until We Win

Phone (toll-free): 888-419-2229
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Video: Ohio hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) attorneys

Sources

  1. Kurinczuk, J. J., White-Koning, M., & Badawi, N. (2010). Epidemiology of neonatal encephalopathy and hypoxic–ischaemic encephalopathy. Early human development, 86(6), 329-338.
  2. What is the global prevalence of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)? (2018, July 26). Retrieved November 15, 2018, from https://www.medscape.com/answers/973501-106461/what-is-the-global-prevalence-of-hypoxic-ischemic-encephalopathy-hie
  3. Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy Lawyers | Reiter & Walsh. (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2019, from https://www.abclawcenters.com/practice-areas/prenatal-birth-injuries/fetus-or-newborn-medical-problems/hypoxic-ischemic-encephalopathy/#causes 
  4. Hypothermia Therapy | Treatment for Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy. (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2019, from https://www.abclawcenters.com/practice-areas/treatments-and-therapies-for-birth-injuries/hypothermia-cooling/ 
  5. Treatments for Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2019, from https://www.abclawcenters.com/treatments-for-hypoxic-ischemic-encephalopathy-hie/