Could your newborn infant’s sleepiness, eating and sucking difficulties, extreme irritability, breathing problems, eye-movement irregularities, or seizures be due to a birth injury related to asphyxia? Though fetal asphyxia, newborn asphyxia, or birth asphyxia have been defined in various ways by organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the World Federation of Neurology Group, asphyxia in the childbirth context is generally defined as an injury caused to a fetus or newborn by oxygen deprivation during the mother’s pregnancy, during the child’s delivery, or after the child’s birth. Asphyxia injuries range from mild to severe and may result in fetal or infant death. Birth asphyxia is the leading cause of newborn death, resulting in 23% of newborn deaths, worldwide. It is also the leading cause of brain damage in newborns. When an infant survives an asphyxia injury, the infant’s heart, lung, liver, kidneys, and alimentary tract—in addition to the brain—may all sustain serious damage.
HIE, or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, is a brain injury that can result from asphyxia of a fetus or newborn due to systemic hypoxemia (a lower than normal level of oxygen in the blood) or a reduction in cerebral blood flow (the amount of blood supplied to the brain in a given time). While mild HIE can resolve within 24 hours, moderately severe HIE may or may not result in an infant’s full recovery. Symptoms of moderately severe HIE include lethargy (lack of energy); significant hypotonia (low muscle tone and/or strength); difficulty with or absence of grasping and sucking reflexes; episodes of apnea (cessation of breathing); and seizures within the first 24 hours after birth.
Severe HIE, from which an infant will generally not recover, may be characterized by stupor or coma; breathing irregularities severe enough to require support with mechanical ventilation; hypotonia; complete absence of sucking, swallowing, and grasping reflexes; eye and eye-movement irregularities such as a skewed deviation of the eyes, dilated pupils, and poor reaction to light; and heart and blood pressure irregularities. Infants who are born with severe HIE can also die from cardio-respiratory failure during the period of reperfusion, which is the time in which blood is returned to tissues that have previously been deprived of oxygen, a process which often causes additional damage to already injured tissues or organs.
The negligence of medical professionals during a woman’s pregnancy, the labor and delivery stages of childbirth, or the care of an infant after birth may result in HIE and other birth injuries. Nationally recognized birth injury attorney Jeff Killino has extensive experience with HIE and other types of birth injury cases arising from injuries caused by medical malpractice. If your child sustained an asphyxia injury or other birth injury and you suspect the injury was caused by medical negligence, attorney Killino and his team of birth injury lawyers can help you hold the parties responsible for your child’s birth injury accountable through legal action.
Causes of HIE and their Relation to Medical Malpractice
Obstetricians are trained to recognize certain risk factors for HIE and to appropriately manage the conditions or complications to protect a fetus’s health. The failure to do so may be found to constitute a deviation from the standard of care required of an obstetrician in the care and treatment of a pregnant woman and her fetus and result in the obstetrician’s liability in a medical malpractice action for HIE or other birth injuries proven to have been sustained by a fetus or infant as a result of the obstetrician’s negligence.
Complications or conditions that may alert an obstetrician to a fetus’s risk of HIE injury include a reduction in the mother’s blood pressure; placental abruption (the separation of the lining of the placenta from the uterus of the mother); a prolapsed umbilical cord; evidence of poor fetal blood circulation or lung function; and the mother’s stressful labor. The failure of an obstetrician to monitor for such conditions or complications and/or to appropriately and timely institute procedures or protocol to manage the complications or conditions once they have been detected may be found to constitute a failure to provide the requisite standard of care owed to the fetus and mother and result in the obstetrician’s liability for any birth injuries found to have been caused by the physician’s deviation from the requisite standard of care.
The quality of medical care provided during a woman’s pregnancy can affect a newborn’s chances of sustaining an HIE birth injury. A physician’s negligent failure to detect and manage a pregnant woman’s high blood pressure or toxemia (the presence of toxins in the mother’s blood), for example, may lead to an infant’s subsequent HIE injury and liability on the part of the physician. A newborn’s HIE injuries may be also be enhanced as a result of an obstetrician’s failure to detect symptoms of an already present HIE injury prior to the infant’s birth. If, for example, an obstetrician negligently fails to institute certain tests during a woman’s pregnancy to detect the potential for HIE birth injuries when such tests are indicated, the greater likelihood of effective treatment resulting from an early diagnosis of HIE will have been prevented. This may lead to the physician’s liability for the enhancement of the infant’s HIE injury that is determined to have resulted from the physician’s negligence.
Obtain Expert Assistance from Birth Injury Attorney Jeff Killino
The Birth Injury Firm founded by attorney Jeffrey Killino and his team of birth injury lawyers have achieved national recognition for their fierce dedication to achieving justice for children who have sustained preventable birth injuries or have died as a result of medical malpractice. If your child sustained a birth injury of any kind due to medical negligence, attorney Killino can help you fight for the justice to which you and your child are entitled.