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Philadelphia, PA: Johnny Cochran Lawyer

Philadelphia Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Lawyer

Hypoxia is one of several terms meaning low levels of oxygen in the tissues of the body. Often confused with blood oxygen level, hypoxia is more serious because it takes longer to develop than low blood oxygen. Because blood is the vehicle that carries blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the tissues, hypoxia is more serious than low blood oxygen. Hypoxia is a dangerous condition to which low blood oxygen rapidly leads. It is the condition medical professionals are trying to prevent any time they give a patient oxygen.

When low blood oxygen levels are detected, there is still time to prevent the tissue damage that hypoxia will cause. However, once hypoxia is instantiated, the damage to tissues has begun, and the amount of time before injury, debility, and death will manifest is rapidly decreasing.

Hypoxia can happen at any age and can be caused by injury, accident, violence, or disease. Sadly, one of the most common ways hypoxic states manifest in is the course of childbirth. Newborn babies can develop hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) when they are deprived of oxygen as the result of medical error.

When this happens in a hospital setting with attendant professionals, equipment, and medical supplies, it almost always means that someone has not performed their duties to the fullness of their abilities. This is a form of medical malpractice.

If your child has been injured during birth and developed HIE as a result, chances are high that you can receive monetary compensation. Being paid for your losses and for the harm to your child cannot undo the damage, but it can ease your challenges going forward. It will help you pay for medical bills, and time off work, and to the degree that it forwards understanding of HIE, it may even help lead to a breakthrough for your child’s condition.

If you believe your child was injured due to medical negligence and developed HIE as a result, our team can help. Call (800) 969-4400 today to get in touch with the leading birth injury lawyers in Philadelphia.

Our HIE attorneys will review your case and help get the compensation you deserve.

What Is Hypoxia and Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)?

According to, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is “[…] a type of newborn brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation and limited blood flow.”

HIE is a broad term that refers to a range of types of harm that a newborn baby can suffer as a result of insufficient blood/oxygen flow. Other terms used to refer to the same type of injury include perinatal asphyxia, neonatal encephalopathy, and birth asphyxia. HIE comes in three stages. These stages are:

  • Hypoxia: A shortage of oxygen in the blood
  • Ischemia: A shortage of blood flow to the brain
  • Encephalopathy: Brain damage resulting from reduced blood/oxygen to the brain.

In birthing centers, preventing preborn and newborn babies from suffering from a lack of oxygen is a well-established science. In the vast majority of cases, doctors, nurses, and other professional birth attendants have more tools and knowledge than they need to prevent infants from being harmed by low oxygen levels.

It must be understood that in some cases, injury from low blood oxygen or poor blood flow cannot be prevented. That is to say, there are some conditions and medical circumstances that make injury from poor or low blood oxygen inevitable. However, a complete medical evaluation can discover whether or not your birth attendants could have prevented the HIE from occurring.

In the discovery phase of your case, we can learn with very little room for doubt whether the HIE happened because of inevitable circumstances or was caused by medical negligence.
Professional birth attendants are required to:

  • Deliver babies in a timely fashion: Preborn infants have a limited amount of time during which they can safely remain undelivered. During birth and immediately after, their tiny bodies are rapidly changing from taking oxygen through the umbilical cord to being able to breathe the open air. Birth attendants are required to deliver babies in a timely fashion so that the baby’s oxygen needs can be met naturally.
  • Monitor the baby’s heart rate: The best indicator of whether or not a preborn baby is in distress is by monitoring the heart rate. If the infant is in distress, its heart rate will be elevated. When this is the case, it means without a doubt that the child is in distress and that something must be done quickly to prevent a birth injury from occurring.
  • Resuscitate or intubate babies that are not breathing: It is not uncommon for newly born babies to need stimulation in order to start breathing open air normally. Most of the time, a light tap will be enough to stimulate normal breathing. If that doesn’t do the trick, medical attendants have a range of tools at their disposal that will stimulate breathing in the vast majority of cases. Again, in some rare and tragic cases, resuscitation simply is not possible, but an investigation should be able to determine whether harm was preventable.
  • Recognize and act on relevant risk factors: Beginning long before the day of birth arrives, medical professionals have a long-established history of knowing, recognizing, and responding to risk factors for a potentially problematic birth. When risk factors are present at any stage of pregnancy, doctors and nurses have many proven effective tools at their disposal to deal with them.

If you believe your baby was harmed unnecessarily by medical negligence, a qualified and experienced Philadelphia hypoxia ischemic encephalopathy lawyer can help.

Consequences of HIE

The signs of HIE are clear and the consequences are equally clear. Signs, symptoms, and conditions caused by HIE are easily recognizable by qualified medical professionals, and they are well understood. If your child has been harmed in a birth related HIE injury, a medical investigation can verify it.

The signs, symptoms, and consequences of HIE include but are not limited to:

  • Breathing difficulty: Hypoxia can damage a child’s ability to breathe normally. This can be an ongoing risk factor as well.
  • Feeding problems: Children who have been harmed in an HIE event can have difficulty eating or experience a loss of appetite.
  • Missing reflexes: Young children should be especially responsive to a sharp stimulus like a loud noise. HIE-damaged children may show a distinct lack of such reflexes.
  • Seizures: Neural storms, otherwise known as seizures, can result from persistent poor oxygenation of the brain and nervous system.
  • Low Apgar scores: Apgar scoring is a way for birth attendants to measure the health and oxygen levels of an infant. Infants with low Apgar scores are to be treated accordingly.
  • Low or high muscle tone: Low or poor muscle tone is yet another sign of possible low tissue oxygenation.
  • Altered level of consciousness: Low, poor, or altered awareness is another sign of adequate oxygenation of the brain and nervous system.

Preventing HIE

  • Prenatal testing: With adequate prenatal testing, medical professionals can easily spot the warnings signs of possible HIE in the vast majority of cases.
  • Prenatal and neonatal care: The art and science of caring for expecting mothers and their unborn children is very well developed. When adequate and quality prenatal and neonatal care are rendered, HIE events are rare.
  • Fetal heart rate monitoring: A distressed heart is one of the easiest ways of monitoring the health of a child during birth. It is a sure sign that preventative measures should be immediately employed.
  • Premature birth prevention: In cases where premature birth can be prevented, most doctors and nurses will opt to do so. Preventing premature birth helps ensure the infant is fully developed and will be able to breathe on its own once born.
  • Betamethasone: When premature birth cannot be prevented, the corticosteroid Betamethasone can be administered in order to give the infant additional strength to endure the rigors of birth.
  • Magnesium sulfate: This medication can help to prevent premature birth and, when effective, will give the child more time to develop.
  • C-section delivery: In cases where the risk factors for HIE are especially pronounced, a cesarean section is an effective way of preventing it.

Why Choose The Cochran Firm

Our team of personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers here in Philadelphia, PA are among the most reputable in the region. Our experience, track record, and diversity are unmatched. You’re sure to find an attorney with expertise in the area of law affecting you who will understand your needs and your circumstances fully. Get in touch today to learn more and find out why The Cochran Firm is right for you.

Experienced Philadelphia HIE Lawyers

If you believe your child has suffered a preventable case of HIE and your medical birth attendants are at fault, get in touch with a qualified HIE attorney with The Cochran Firm today.
Your free case evaluation is just a click or a call away at (800) 969-4400.