Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

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Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is a medical condition whereby an inadequate oxygen supply causes damage to the cells of the brain and spinal cord. When a child suffers hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy before, during, or just after childbirth, it is possible that a physician's medical malpractice is to blame. This condition occurs most frequently during or just before birth. This type of asphyxia is extremely rare: approximately two to four of every 1,000 births involve hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. When hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy does develop, the condition is life threatening and has the high potential to cause serious and permanent brain damage.


Fifteen to twenty percent of all infants exhibiting hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy will die during the newborn period. Of those hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy infants who survive, at least 25 percent will exhibit permanent neurological problems. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is a frequent cause of mental retardation, epilepsy, learning disability, and cerebral palsy.

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Caused by Childbirth 

The childbirth process is often the first time in a woman's life that she has extended and consistent contact with a physician or other medical professional. Because birth is a natural process, most expecting families believe and hope the course of pregnancy and childbirth will run smoothly. When complications arise in childbirth, such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, families are left wondering why and how such devastating injuries occurred.

Causes of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy 

The exact causes of birth injuries such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy are often unknown. There is significant medicolegal debate with regards to the exact causes of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and whether or not it can be detected and prevented before it does damage to a newborn. Some studies have revealed that umbilical cord complications, maternal uterine rupture, maternal hypotension, abruption placentae, and other complications may cause hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. A child who is suffering from this condition may present symptoms of seizures and other non-specific signs of brain damage during or shortly after childbirth.


There are many reasons that birth injuries such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy occur, some of which are not yet fully understood by the medical community. Medical research has found that hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy can be extremely difficult to diagnose during childbirth due to the many birth injuries that present with similar symptoms. While hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is not always preventable, medical negligence can by a primary factor that leads to the development of this fatal and debilitating birth injury.

Contact an Attorney Near You 

When a physician fails to take action to prevent or adequately treat a medical complication that leads to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, they can be held liable for all related damages. If you would like to learn more about hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, please contact us to speak with a compassionate, yet aggressive, attorney who can evaluate your case.

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