Hypoxia & Anoxia In Newborns
Oxygen deprivation is always something to take seriously. Just a few minutes without enough oxygen has the potential to cause serious injuries that have a significant impact on a person’s life.
Hypoxia is a condition which occurs when the body or part of a body doesn’t receive enough oxygen. Hypoxemia is a related condition which occurs when there is a low supply of arterial oxygen and the terms hypoxia and hypoxemia are sometimes used interchangeably.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain injury caused by a reduced amount of oxygen. HIE stems from the brain experiencing hypoxia, leading to permanent brain damage due to a lack of oxygen reaching needed brain cells. While HIE can affect victims of nearly any age, it has a tragically high rate of diagnosis in infants and newborns due to various complications during pregnancy and/or birth.
While the mother is still pregnant with the child, these complications can include poor blood circulation to the placenta, various cardiac diseases, maternal diabetes, and so on. However, a more common cause of HIE in newborns stems from accidents during birth and/or mishandled deliveries; these accidents include umbilical cord mishandling, low maternal blood pressure, excessive bleeding, and so on. Many of these causes are due to a lack of planning and incorrect procedures on behalf of the hospital in charge of delivering the child, and are frequently preventable.
Similarly, anoxia is related to HIE in that it also stems from a lack of oxygen to the brain during fetal development. However, anoxia refers to more severe cases of oxygen deprivation that result in greater, often permanent damage to the brain of the fetus. While many of the same physical issues stemming from pregnancy can cause anoxia, more often than not anoxia is caused by birth trauma as well. Medication errors, uterine rupture, maternal infections, and other external factors can all lead to a high likelihood of anoxia in newborn babies, many of which may have been caused by incorrectly followed procedure by the medical staff.
HIE and anoxia are dangerous in every case (and fatal in many), but if treated promptly the damage may be reversible, or at least better managed. A treatment referred to as “hypothermia therapy” (due to its similarity to procedures used when the patient is suffering from hypothermia or exposure), if begun within six hours of the diagnosis of the HIE- or anoxia-related injury, can help prevent the spread of oxygen-deprivation-related brain injury before it leaves permanent damage.
Even with treatment, however, the long-term outcomes for children diagnosed with HIE or anoxic brain injury can vary wildly from case to case, and the injuries (and resulting financial strain) can be a huge burden on families. If you or a loved one have a child that has been affected by hypoxia, hypoxemia, or anoxia due to a mistake on the hospital’s part, contact a birth trauma lawyer today to find out what your options are.