Birth injury: hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy

Birth injury: hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, also known as perinatal asphyxia, is brain damage that happens when an infant does not receive sufficient oxygen and blood. This is a severe condition that can have long-lasting effects and even cause fatalities. In fact, birth asphyxia accounts for 23 percent of newborn deaths.

It is important to know the causes, symptoms, effects and treatments that are potentially relevant to HIE. Here are the basics facts you should consider if your infant received this diagnosis.


HIE can occur before, during or after birth. There are many circumstances that cause asphyxia, including these examples:

  • Medical negligence
  • Cardiac complications
  • Blood circulation problems with the placenta
  • Fetal anemia
  • Lung malformations
  • Prolonged labor
  • Infections
  • Prematurity
  • Umbilical cord accidents
  • Maternal high blood pressure

However, there are numerous other problems and events that lead to this condition. In some situations, there are no identifiable causes for newborn HIE.


These are some signs your baby may have HIE:

  • Poor muscle tone
  • Diminished tendon reflexes
  • Low or irregular heart rate
  • Poor feeding
  • Pale or bluish skin color
  • Irritability
  • Weak or irregular breathing
  • Poor feeding
  • Absent newborn reflexes of grasping, sucking or swallowing
  • Lethargy
  • Hypotonia
  • Seizures
  • Dilated pupils

Make sure your doctor assesses the symptoms and runs analytic procedures to diagnose the condition. Diagnostic tests may include MRI or CT scans, umbilical artery blood samples, Apgar tests and electroencephalography.


HIE can result in various medical complications. The conditions largely depend on whether the asphyxia is mild, moderate or severe. Here are some of the most common consequences:

  • Developmental delays
  • Motor skill delays
  • Cognitive problems
  • Epilepsy

The most severe cases involve infant death.


The precise treatment varies depending on the severity of damage to the brain and the causes of the condition. Your newborn might need one or more of the following procedures or therapies:

  • Mechanical ventilation for breathing assistance
  • Medications and anesthesia to control seizures
  • Blood pressure management

Be sure to consult your doctor about the most effective treatment method.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *