Hypothermia (Brain Cooling) Errors
HIE, Hypothermia Therapy Errors, and Permanent Brain Damage
Hypothermia (Brain Cooling) therapy in newborns suffering from birth asphyxia (hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE) is a relatively new treatment option. It involves cooling the baby’s core body temperature to about 91 degrees Farenheit (33 degrees Celsius) for around 72 hours. This is achieved either by attaching a cooling cap to the baby’s head or laying the baby on a cooling blanket. The purpose is to reduce the baby’s body temperature so that the metabolic rate slows allowing cell recovery over a longer period of time. This avoids further damage that can occur if normal oxygenation or blood flow is restored too quickly to injured cells. The desired outcome is little or no brain damage.
Babies with Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Should Receive Hypothermia Treatment Within Six Hours
Timing is critical when using hypothermia treatment. Research indicates that the most favorable outcomes occur when brain cooling is started as soon as possible after the birth injury occurs. Most experts agree that the treatment must be started within 6 hours. The treatment also requires that the newborn is at least 36 weeks gestation and has at least two of the common signs and symptoms of moderate to severe HIE (e.g. lethargy, limpness or coma; abnormal tone or posture; abnormal reflexes; decreased or no spontaneous activity; problems with autonomic dysfunction [including bradycardia, abnormal pupils, apneas]; metabolic acidosis; clinical evidence of seizures).
Most medium and large-sized medical facilities today have NICUs and hypothermia therapy equipment readily available. Community hospitals usually do not have NICUs nor the necessary neonatologists on staff, and so will not typically have hypothermia equipment. Instead, they will immediately transfer newborns to larger hospitals or medical facilities that have hypothermic therapy capabilities.
Medical Malpractice in Hypothermia Therapy Cases
Sometimes errors in judgment or practice by medical professionals can occur in HIE/birth asphyxia and hypothermia treatment cases. In fact, if your baby required hypothermia treatments as a result of HIE/birth asphyxia and is permanently disabled, there is a good possibility that negligence occurred and may be responsible for your child’s injuries.
Medical errors in hypothermia therapy and HIE cases include:
- Failure of medical professionals to prevent hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy/birth asphyxia in the first place, by:
- Failure to inform the parents of hypothermia therapy as a treatment option.
- Failure to begin hypothermia within six hours of birth.
- Failure to transfer infant to appropriate facility with hypothermia capabilities.
- Failure to have in place and follow organizational policies and protocols for hypothermia therapy.
Trusted Legal Help for Hypothermia Therapy Errors
Michigan HIE Attorneys with a National Presence
Children with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) can sometimes require round-the-clock care, as well as specialized services, equipment, and education. It can be difficult for parents to pay for these necessary and critical services. Hiring an HIE attorney allows you to secure the care your child needs to live as full a life as possible and to seek a way to keep doctors accountable for their mistakes.
Feel free to reach out to the HIE attorneys at ABC Law Centers for a free case evaluation. We will never charge any fees until you win your case. We pride ourselves on our transparency and individualized attention for all of our clients. If you are interested in learning more about the legal process before contacting us, please review our page on the legal process.
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Video: Birth Asphyxia (HIE) and Brain Injury
Watch a video of Jesse Reiter discussing how a lack of oxygen at birth can cause a brain injury.
More Information on Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
More Information on Hypothermia Therapy (Brain Cooling)
- Neonatal Requirements for Hypothermia Therapy
- Hypothermia Therapy Past, Present, and Future: Where is Brain Cooling Headed?
- Research Update: Combining EPO and Hypothermia Therapy to Treat HIE
- How Does Brain Cooling Relate to Patient Safety and Medical Malpractice?
- Hypothermia Therapy May Be Effective 6-24 Hours After Birth