Understanding hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is a condition where the infant does not receive enough oxygen while in the womb. This leads to brain cells sustaining injuries, and it can happen in a variety of ways. Studies suggest that between two and nine out of every 1,000 live births will experience HIE.
It is vital for providers to recognize the symptoms of HIE well in advance so that treatment can begin right away. Occasionally, the doctor will be at fault for this condition, and in this instance, the parents may want to consider legal action.
There are several ways this condition can come about. Some of the most common explanations include:
- Blood-clotting disorders from the mother
- Fetal-maternal hemorrhage
- Cord prolapse
- Placental blood clots
- Trauma occurring during delivery
- Low maternal blood pressure
- Placental insufficiency
- Cord compression
- Drug and alcohol abuse from the mother
There are several diagnostic tools doctors can use to determine if an infant suffers from HIE. Imaging tools are most common, such as MRI, ultrasound and EEG. The doctor can also utilize the Sarnat Scale, which takes into account the baby’s appearance after birth.
The most apparent symptoms will be the presence of depressed, irregular or slow breathing. Additional symptoms can include:
- Skin color appearing pale or blue
- Low or floppy muscle tone
- Stained meconium
- Depressed or completely absent reflexes
Regardless of how this condition appeared, it is paramount to begin treatment as soon as possible. When the infant suffers from delayed, depressed breathing, the doctor may recommend mechanical ventilation to aid the baby in breathing. Another treatment may involve cooling the infant’s body or brain to reverse the effects of brain hypoxia. Medications and general anesthesia are available to prevent the baby from experiencing seizures. An array of treatments exist to help the baby better control his or her blood pressure and heart function.