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An overview of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy

Between three and 20 full-term infants out of 1,000 live births are born with a condition called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. This refers to any dysfunction of the brain caused by a reduction in oxygen and blood going to the brain. Texas residents should know that among pre-term infants, 60% develop HIE.

Besides premature birth, there are several factors that can raise the risk for HIE, though the cause of HIE is never known in many cases. For example, the risk goes up when conditions like maternal diabetes, vascular disease and reduced blood flow to the placenta are present. It also goes up if there is an accident with the umbilical cord, bleeding or rupture of the placenta, head trauma or an infection like sepsis.

Infants with moderate or severe HIE may die as newborns or develop neurodevelopmental disorders, visual or hearing impairment, seizures and difficulty eating. Some develop cerebral palsy. HIE usually affects other organs, including the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Various methods are available for detecting HIE, such as neurological exams and MRIs.

Brain cooling is the only HIE treatment that specifically targets the brain. In this procedure, the baby's body temperature is brought down by way of a cooling blanket or cooling cap over the course of three days. This is reserved for infants with moderate or severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

HIE can possibly form the basis for a malpractice claim. It all depends on whether there is clear proof of negligence on the part of a doctor or nurse. A parent whose infant has HIE may want a lawyer to evaluate their case. Legal counsel may be able to help seek compensation for past medical expenses, rehabilitative care, emotional suffering and other losses. In the effort to strengthen the case, the lawyer could hire third-party investigators.

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