Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

“Hypoxia” means a lack of oxygen. “Ischemic” means an inadequate blood supply. “Encephalopathy” refers to a brain condition. So, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a condition in which the brain does not receive enough oxygen due to inadequate blood flow.

Strictly speaking, HIE can affect a person of any age. For example, neonatal HIE is a birth injury that can cause permanent brain damage or death. 

An Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer from Malone Law Medical Malpractice and Severe Injury Lawyers can analyze your situation and help you with any legal claim you may have under Georgia law. Call now for a free initial consultation at (770) 390-7550.

How Malone Law Medical Malpractice and Severe Injury Lawyers Can Help With a Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Claim in Atlanta, GA

How Malone Law Medical Malpractice and Severe Injury Lawyers Can Help With a Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Claim in Atlanta, GA

Malone Law Medical Malpractice and Severe Injury Lawyers is a family-run law firm representing injured clients in Atlanta, Georgia. Since 1965, our Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys have successfully recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in financial compensation for people like you.

If you or a loved one need help after suffering HIE, our attorneys can provide you with:

  • Legal advisors who will help you make informed decisions about your case
  • Aggressive negotiators who will try to get a fair settlement to avoid litigation delays
  • Experienced litigators who will fight in court against at-fault parties and insurers

Medical malpractice, particularly when it causes a brain injury, can require lifelong treatment and therapy. Contact Malone Law Medical Malpractice and Severe Injury Lawyers in Atlanta, GA, for a free consultation to discuss your injuries and the compensation you can seek for them.

Is HIE a Common Condition?

HIE happens more often than you might think. For example, when someone suffers severe bleeding, the lack of blood flow to their brain will cause HIE. Or a doctor could commit a medication error that triggers cardiac arrest. The patient will experience HIE.

However, not all types of hypoxia result from ischemia. Asphyxiation due to drowning or choking happens because of a lack of respiration rather than a lack of blood flow. Thus, all forms of brain damage from a lack of oxygen will qualify as HIE.

Two data points help explain the frequency of HIE. First, heart disease is the top cause of non-accidental death, and opioid overdoses are the top cause of accidental death in the U.S. Both of these conditions can kill by causing HIE.

Second, neonatal HIE affects between 1.5 and 2.5 out of every 1,000 births, and about half of cases cause permanent injury or death. The infant mortality rate in the U.S. in 2021 was 5.4 out of every 1,000 births. Thus, neonatal HIE is a significant cause of American infant death.

Causes and Effects of HIE

The brain requires vast amounts of resources. By one measure, 15% to 20% of the blood exiting your heart goes to your brain. Red blood cells carry oxygen to brain cells so they can perform cell metabolism. All cells, including brain cells, die without oxygen.

When an injury or condition disrupts your circulation even a little, your brain cells rapidly change. The sodium ions on the surface of your brain cells move inside. The sodium ions attract water molecules, which, in turn, cause the brain to swell.

As the brain tissue swells, more blood vessels get squeezed shut. The damage and swelling spread. After just a few minutes, the brain cells begin to suffer irreversible damage. Brain death can occur when your brain goes 10 minutes without oxygen.

Many injuries and conditions can cause HIE. For example, a blood clot that causes a stroke can starve the brain of blood, causing hypoxia. But when doctors refer to HIE, they typically mean neonatal HIE.

Causes of Neonatal HIE

Neonatal HIE is a specific type of birth asphyxiation. In other words, birth asphyxiation includes neonatal HIE as well as other forms of asphyxiation, such as respiratory arrest.

During labor and delivery, the fetus relies on the mother to deliver oxygen through the umbilical cord. Any disruption to this connection can lead to neonatal HIE. 

Some possible causes of neonatal HIE include the following:

  • A drop in maternal respiration or blood pressure
  • Blood loss by the mother or fetus
  • Premature placental detachment, also called placental abruption
  • Compression of the umbilical cord

Since brain damage can happen so quickly, doctors must monitor the fetus for distress and act quickly if they detect that the circulation to the child has been disrupted.

Effects of Neonatal HIE

A child who has suffered neonatal HIE will often appear blue and listless. Even if the doctors provide oxygen until the child can breathe on their own, the baby might still suffer permanent injuries. For example, a well-known condition caused by HIE is cerebral palsy. This condition affects the baby’s motor control. It may also cause developmental and sensory disabilities.

Neonatal HIE and Medical Malpractice

Not all cases of neonatal HIE result from medical malpractice. To prove malpractice, you must show that your child’s HIE resulted from a failure by a healthcare provider to provide reasonably competent medical care under the circumstances.

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Atlanta Brain Injury Lawyers

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy can cause permanent physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities. Contact Malone Law Medical Malpractice and Severe Injury Lawyers for a free consultation to discuss the harm you or a loved one suffered from HIE and how our Atlanta brain injury lawyers can help you recover compensation.