Birth hypoxia is known by many other names, like birth asphyxia, intrauterine hypoxia, perinatal asphyxia, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (pronounced: hy-POK-sik is-KEEM-ik) (HIE or HIE injury), neonatal asphyxia, neonatal encephalopathy, cerebral hypoxia, and asphyxia neonatorum. The disorder is characterized by a lack of oxygen during the time of a child’s birth. This lack of oxygen can lead to serious health problems very quickly, a baby could suffer permanent brain damage from mere seconds without air.


Potential causes of birth hypoxia are: cord prolapse (when the umbilical cord leaves the uterus before the baby), cord occlusion, placental infarction (growth of extra tissue or lesions on the placenta), or a nuchal cord (when the umbilical cord wraps around the newborn’s neck). It may also result from excessive maternal

sedation by anesthesia, placental abruption, breech delivery (also known as breech birth – when the child comes out of the uterus foot-first rather than head- first), or prolonged labor.


Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) may be related to hypoxia in some way, although it is unknown whether it is a cause or a result of the disorder. Babies deprived of oxygen at birth are also at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (also known as SIDS) and, later in life, epilepsy, attention deficit disorders (ADD or ADHD), other cognitive or developmental delays, and cerebral palsy.


A new treatment is available for sufferers of birth hypoxia called body cooling treatment, head cooling treatment or hypothermia therapy. Infants are kept in intensive care and their body temperature is cooled to 33.5 degrees for 72 hours. This method was thought for years to decease neurologic problems caused by oxygen deprivation, and a recent study has confirmed this projection.


A recent study in a 2009 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine concludes, “Induction of moderate hypothermia for 72 hours in infants who had perinatal asphyxia did not significantly reduce the combined rate of death or severe disability but resulted in improved neurologic outcomes in survivors.”


In a 2005 hypothermia treatment study published in the same journal, death or moderate or severe disability occurred in 45 of 102 infants (44%) in the hypothermia group, compared to 64 of 103 infants (62%) in the control group. The rates of cerebral palsy were 19% in the hypothermia group and 30% in the control group; the rates of blindness were 7% in the hypothermia group and 14% in the control group; the rates of hearing impairment were 4% in the hypothermia group and 6% in the control group. The total reduction in death or moderate disability at 18 months for the hypothermia group was 18%.


If you or a loved one have recently delivered an infant who suffered a lack of oxygen at birth you may wish to ask your doctor if the baby is a candidate for treatment with hypothermia.


If your baby has suffered hypoxia during birth, you may have a medical malpractice claim against healthcare providers who caused this injury. The malpractice claim is for the harm your child has suffered, and for the cost of care and treatment for your child.


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Our lawyers are pursuing medical malpractice claims for children and have a team of attorneys and paralegals experienced in helping brain-injured children and their parents. The lawsuits filed on behalf of these patients and families seek damages for medical bills, loss of earning potential, pain and suffering, and loss of the pleasures of life.

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