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Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Awareness Month Continues This April


Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) Awareness Month Continues This April

April is HIE Awareness Month, and April 4th marks HIE Awareness Day. Join us in recognizing the signs of HIE and supporting families affected by this type of brain damage, which typically occurs before, during, or shortly after birth and may lead to lifelong injuries.

On this HIE Awareness Day, we share some information to support those who have been impacted by HIE to help spread awareness of the disorder.

What is HIE?

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE for short, is a type of brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen and/or blood flow to the brain during labor or delivery. When critical oxygenated blood is cut off from parts of the baby’s brain, brain cells break down and die. The damaged cells then release substances that are toxic to other cells, setting off a chain reaction that causes the brain injury to spread. HIE is also known as perinatal asphyxia, birth asphyxia, or neonatal encephalopathy, and it is responsible for a large number of permanent injuries and deaths of babies every year.

Breaking down the term hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, “hypoxic” refers to the shortage of oxygen in the blood, “ischemic” relates to the shortage of blood flow to the brain, and “encephalopathy” refers to the resulting brain damage. Essentially, when blood flow to the brain is disrupted, a series of events is set in motion that results in cellular damage.

What Causes HIE?

There are many different reasons HIE may occur. One of the most devastating reasons, however, is medical malpractice. Examples include mismanagement of a high-risk pregnancy, delayed C-section, or improper use of vacuum or forceps. If a medical provider fails to perform or interpret a non-stress test or fetal heart rate monitoring strip, or fails to recognize and/or treat a maternal infection, or misuses Pitocin, then HIE may occur. HIE may also be caused by preeclampsia, uterine rupture, umbilical cord compression, placental abruption, or other complications.

An HIE diagnosis can lead to other life-long disabilities and conditions, such as cerebral palsy.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of HIE?

It may be difficult to tell right away if your infant has suffered a hypoxic-ischemic injury. However, there are a few things to look out for in your newborn that may indicate a brain injury. Signs and symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of crying or excessive crying
  • Seizure activity
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Sleepiness
  • Loss of reflex
  • Difficulty breathing or maintaining temperature
  • Immediate resuscitation
  • Low APGAR scores
  • Irregular heart rate or blood pressure
  • Organ dysfunction
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing problems

How is HIE Treated?

An MRI or CT scan is often performed to determine the extent of a newborn’s hypoxic-ischemic injury. If the child exhibits seizure-like activity (such as fixed gaze, repetitive movements, or bicycling of the legs), an EEG will be performed.

A common treatment for HIE is therapeutic hypothermia (“cooling treatment”), where the baby’s brain and/or body is cooled below normal temperatures for a period of up to 72 hours. Cooling treatment should be given within six hours of birth.  This treatment allows the body’s metabolic rate to slow down, thereby stabilizing brain cells and preventing further damage.

What Should I Do If I Think My Child Has HIE?

If your child suffered a brain injury during labor or delivery and has exhibited the symptoms above, contact an attorney right away. Medical malpractice may have been the cause of your child’s injury. Speak to one of the Chicago birth injury lawyers from our firm experienced in HIE.  You have a limited amount of time to file a claim.

What Can I Do to Spread Awareness for HIE?

During this HIE Awareness Month, you can donate to charities around the world, attend an in-person or online event to learn about HIE and spread awareness, share social media posts about HIE, and use hashtags like  #HIEAwareness, #HIEremembrance, #HIEremembranceday, and #HIEloss in your own social media posts.

Contact a Birth Injury Lawyer From Grant & Eisenhofer Experienced in Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

If you believe your child has suffered a Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) injury, our birth injury lawyers may be able to help you.

Call us at (877) 262-9767 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We represent families nationwide and have offices in Chicago IL, Baltimore MD, New York NY, and Wilmington DE.