Long-Term Effects of Hypoxia at Birth
Even in a normal, healthy pregnancy, it’s still possible that a child could end up experiencing a lack of oxygen during delivery. Problems with the umbilical cord or placental abruption are just two things that could potentially cut off a child’s oxygen supply. In some cases, it can happen because of maternal health conditions like preeclampsia or due to complications during a prolonged delivery. Unfortunately, in far too many cases, it can also be the result of medical malpractice. If a child goes into distress and doctors don’t react quickly enough, a child could easily lose a dangerous amount of oxygen.
Regardless of why a child’s oxygen is cut off during delivery, it’s essential for action to be taken immediately. Just a few minutes without oxygen can cause lasting damage to the brain and it’s estimated that oxygen deprivation is responsible for 840,000 neonatal deaths around the world each year.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen and like other types of birth injuries, the long-term effects of HIE largely depend on just how severe the injury is. Children who experience a complete or near-complete loss of oxygen are more likely to experience more severe effects as a result, as are children whose loss of oxygen is more prolonged. The severity of damage caused by HIE can also depend on the child’s physical state at the time of the injury. For example, premature babies tend to be more susceptible to serious injuries since their bodies are more delicate.
The long-term effects of HIE can also be influenced by just how quickly doctors act to treat the child afterward. For children who have HIE, therapeutic hypothermia is the most commonly used type of treatment available, but for it to be the most beneficial, it needs to be administered within six hours of the time of injury. During therapeutic hypothermia, a child’s body is cooled to bring its temperature a little below normal. The child’s body temperature is then kept down for 72 hours. Doing this helps give the child’s brain a better chance to recover and prevent the damage from spreading.
If a child’s oxygen loss was minor and appropriate actions were taken very quickly, it’s possible that they could experience no lasting effects. However, HIE can also be linked to problems such as vision and hearing impairment, intracranial hemorrhages, seizures, cerebral palsy, and respiratory conditions. Other effects might not become evident until the child gets a little bit older. HIE can also lead to things like intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, and behavioral disorders. While therapeutic hypothermia is used shortly after the injury to help minimize the extent of the damage, other therapies and treatments can also be used to help children with HIE based on the specific problems they’re having as a result.
When you find out your child has a condition like HIE, it’s only natural to have a lot of questions. Especially if you feel like the lack of oxygen that caused it might have been preventable. Contact a birth trauma lawyer as soon as you’re able to. Even if your child is a few years old, it might not be too late for you to get legal help. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we have attorneys who have helped parents just like you. Contact us today to start getting answers to your questions.