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Birth Hypoxia... Could It Be Prevented?

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 en-ceph-al-opathy) (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 or bottom-first, rather than head-first), uterine rupture 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 or head cooling treatment.  Infants are kept in intensive care and their body temperature is cooled to 33.5 degree Celcius for 72 hours.  This method was thought for years to decease neurologic problems and caused by oxygen deprivation, and a recent study has confirmed this projection.

A recent study in a 2012 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine concludes, “[h]ypothermia . . . when initiated within 6 hours after birth among infants of more than 35 weeks’ gestational age with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, has been shown to reduce the risk fo death or disability and increase the rate of survival free of disability at 18 to 24 months of age."

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 you would like more information about your legal rights concerning a medical malpractice claim for birth hypoxia, please contact Dan Weinstock, Esq., Carol Nelson Shepherd, Esq., Carey Chopko Esq., by telephone at 888-583-4942 or by filling out the form on this page.

1New England Journal of Medicine, October 13, 2005.
2New England Journal of Medicine, October 13, 2005 (editorial).
3Lancet, 2005; 365:663-370.
4Pediatric Neurology, 2004.06.014, pp.11-17; pp. 18-24.
5New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 353, pp. 1574-1584.
6Circulation 2005; 112; 188-95.
7Encephalopathy, Placental Abruption, basal ganglia, cerebral ischemia, hypothermia baby, infant mortality, ischemia hypoxemia, newborn hypothermia, systemic hypothermia, whole body hypothermia, injury at birth

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