Mahoney Law, PLLC

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Baby diagnosed with HIE in the NICU

On Behalf of | Sep 2, 2021 | Firm News

Was your newborn baby diagnosed with HIE in the NICU? We may be able to help. HIE is short for hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. It is a type of brain injury caused by a lack of oxygenated blood flowing to the brain. In some cases, this happens to an infant during labor and delivery due to medical malpractice. If medical malpractice has caused HIE to a baby, the brain injury may in some cases be permanent, and can range from very severe to somewhat milder (although there really isn’t such a thing as a mild brain injury from the victim’s and family’s perspective). An HIE infant may be in the NICU for several days, weeks, or even months. Sometimes babies with hypoxic ischemic brain injury are treated with hypothermic (cold) therapy which may reduce the injury (perhaps by controlling swelling). An ultrasound or MRI may show an HIE brain injury. The newborn may experience seizures that show up on an EEG, requiring antiseizure medications like Phenobarbital, Keppra, or Baclofen. In certain situations, the infant may not be able to feed properly, requiring a G-tube for tube feedings. Your baby may have had what are referred to as low APGAR scores at the time of delivery, reflecting a lack of movement, not breathing, blue color, low heart rate, no cry, and other factors relating to being born in an acute situation. A newborn may have what NICU doctors describe as acidosis, shown by low cord blood pH gas values from umbilical cord blood after delivery. This can be due to metabolic or respiratory acidosis, either of which is dangerous and may be reflective of problems during labor and delivery. In some tragic cases, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy can lead to infant death after days, weeks, or months; while in other cases, the newborn goes on to lead a very long life yet with substantial disabilities from cerebral palsy requiring very expensive around the clock care pursuant to a life care plan.

In reviewing a potential HIE medical malpractice case, one of the things we as lawyers analyze is the prenatal period to rule out whether the injury occurred then. As HIE medical malpractice attorneys, we also examine the fetal heart rate monitoring strips to see what baby’s heart rate was showing on the monitor during labor; certain patterns mean a cesarean section delivery should have been done. Our newborn HIE law firm also reviews the medical records with chart entries to determine whether the baby was progressing properly down the birth canal or if it was delayed and experiencing fetal distress such that a cesarean section should have been done early on. Another thing we consider in reviewing for HIE labor and delivery medical malpractice is the use of the contraction inducing drug Pitocin (or Oxytocin, “Pit”) to see if it was administered within the standard of care or if it was improperly used to force a vaginal delivery. Sometimes an umbilical cord problem was not noticed and timely addressed (such as a nuchal cord, cord around the neck), or there is a problem with the placenta that is not recognized (placental abruption for example). In some cases, cord blood is obtained from the newborn infant, but the results are later missing, and nobody can explain what happened to the sample, forcing us to consider whether the provider intentionally discarded the cord blood sample so as to cover up key evidence. Placental pathology can be informative, but sometimes providers do not order this in cases of obvious HIE, necessitating the need to examine whether the laboratory analysis was not ordered as part of an effort to coverup labor and delivery medical malpractice. The resuscitation process is also important to examine, including whether the proper providers were called in time, whether intubation was timely done, and whether meconium was suctioned if needed (if meconium may have been in the airway). Some hospitals and providers are repeat offenders as to newborn HIE, sometimes due to a poor culture of safety or incompetence. These and many other factors are considered in determining whether legally your healthcare providers (the doctor, nurses, and hospital) met the standard of care for your labor and delivery process or if medical malpractice occurred leading to a diagnosis of HIE in the NICU. Often, the defense in labor and delivery HIE medical malrpactice cases claims the hypoxic injury occured at some undertermine time before labor due to no fault of the healthcare providers, yet when pressed they cannot identify what exactly it was that they think caused the severe HIE injury if not malpractice during labor and delivery, conveniently taking the position of “we do not know really what caused it but somehow we are sure it could not be labor and delivery medical malpractice.” We evaluate and address this sort of intellectually dishonest defense on a routine bases in cases wherein a newborn has been diagnosed with HIE in the NICU.

If your newborn baby was diagnosed with HIE (hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy) in the NICU, do feel free to reach out to us by phone, text, or email. Mahoney Law, PLLC, Boise, Idaho, (208) 345-6364 (phone or text). We handle HIE medical malpractice cases throughout all of Idaho and have a strong track record of success in helping newborns, children, and their families in these very serious, yet preventable situations. For example, in one case, we secured a $7.2 million settlement on behalf of a young family in a case brought in federal court wherein the newborn suffered an anoxic brain injury at birth leading to HIE and cerebral palsy. A portion of the funds is invested in trust with lifetime benefits to the child of $19 million. We review cases to help parents understand “why did this happen,” free of charge, confidentially, with no obligation or risk to you. (208) 345-6364 (phone or text)