Michigan Birth Injury Attorneys | The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU): Answers for Parents

Michigan Birth Injury Attorneys & Cerebral Palsy Lawyers Helping NICU Babies

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU): Reasons for Admission & Issues Babies Face

When a baby is in the the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), parents have many questions about the reasons for the admission, what types of tests and treatments their baby will receive and what the short and long-term outlook is for their newborn. In this section, we will discuss these and other important NICU issues. Often, babies require care in the NICU because they have injuries such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which can cause seizures, breathing and feeding problems and organ failure. Other problems associated with birth injuries include jaundice, brain bleeds, infection, sepsis and meningitis.

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Management of Premature Babies

When a baby is born prematurely her lungs and other body systems aren’t fully developed, which significantly increases her risk of having infection, sepsis, respiratory distress and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which can cause intraventricular hemorrhages (IVH) and periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). These birth injuries can lead to other serious problems, such as cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, meningitis, intellectual disabilities, and hydrocephalus. The best way to prevent problems associated with premature birth is to prevent the baby from being born preterm. Close monitoring of the mother during pregnancy will enable the physician to detect infection, an incompetent cervix, an abnormal position of the baby and other risk factors for premature birth.

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Newborn Brain Bleeds (Intracranial & Extracranial Hemorrhages)

A brain bleed in a baby is very serious because bleeds and hemorrhages can cause permanent brain damage if not quickly diagnosed and properly managed. Brain bleeds are often caused by a traumatic labor and delivery. Trauma to the baby’s head can occur when a baby is large for her gestational age (macrosomic), the mother’s pelvis is too small for the size of the baby (cephalopelvic disproportion – CPD), or forceps or vacuum extractors are misused during delivery. Mismanaged abnormal presentations, such as a breech or face presentation, can cause also cause head trauma. Sometimes brain bleeds in a baby occur when Pitocin or Cytotec are misused during labor.

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Newborn Brain Injury

When parents learn their baby has a brain injury, they wonder what the future will look like for their child. Brain damage can be caused by a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain during or near the time of birth, called birth asphyxia. Birth asphyxia can cause a type of brain injury called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Brain bleeds are birth injuries often caused by misuse of forceps and vacuum extractors. Another common cause of brain damage is a maternal infection that travels to the baby at birth, which can cause sepsis and meningitis. After birth, untreated hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice) and hypoglycemia and mismanaged breathing problems are common causes of newborn brain damage. HIE and periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) are brain injuries that can cause lifelong conditions, such as cerebral palsy, seizures and intellectual disabilities.

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Newborn Breathing Problems

Babies who have a brain injury or who were born prematurely are at risk of having breathing problems. A brain injury can decrease a baby’s drive to breathe. Prematurity can cause a baby to have respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) and other breathing problems. Brain damage and prematurity can cause babies to have apnea, which means the baby stops breathing periodically. It is very important for the medical team to properly treat the numerous respiratory problems that newborn babies may face. Improper treatment of neonatal breathing issues can cause the baby to suffer from a lack of oxygen to the brain as well as overventilation injuries, which can cause cerebral palsy, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), seizures and other neurological problems.

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Management of Neonatal Seizures, Hyperbilirubinemia (Jaundice) & Hypoglycemia

Babies who are born prematurely or who have a brain injury are susceptible to seizures, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), abnormally high bilirubin levels (jaundice) and other medical issues. It is crucial for the medical team to closely monitor babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for these problems and to provide prompt treatment. Mismanagement of these medical problems can cause the baby to have permanent brain damage, which can lead to cerebral palsy and other lifelong conditions.

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Hypothermia (Brain Cooling) Treatment for Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) & Prevention of Cerebral Palsy

Hypothermia (brain cooling) treatment is a groundbreaking, fairly new treatment for hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) that can help prevent cerebral palsy (CP) or minimize the baby’s brain injury, thereby reducing the severity of the CP. The key with hypothermia treatment is that it must be given within 6 hours of the event that caused the baby to be deprived of oxygen and develop HIE. This means that in most cases, the treatment must be given within 6 hours of birth.

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Birth Injuries & Long Term Issues the Child May Face

Babies who experience difficulty during or near the time of delivery can end up with birth injuries, such as birth asphyxia and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), brain bleeds and hemorrhages, seizures, brachial plexus injuries and Erb’s palsy, and injuries that occur in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) such as overventilation injuries and HIE caused by improper management of a baby’s respiratory status. Birth injuries can cause a child to have permanent brain damage and lifelong conditions, such as cerebral palsy, seizure disorders and intellectual disabilities. There are numerous treatments and therapies available to help minimize the effects of these lifelong conditions so that children can lead as independent a life as possible.  Early intervention and aggressive physical therapy are crucial. In addition, there are dozens of innovative therapies and treatments that can greatly benefit children with cerebral palsy and special needs. A groundbreaking surgery called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) is helping many children wiht cerebral palsy walk for the first time.  Numerous assistive devices can help children do things that once seemed impossible.

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