Anoxic brain injury in infants occurs when oxygen is completely cut off from the brain. After about 4 minutes without oxygen, the brain cells die. This results in brain damage to the baby. Infants who are deprived of oxygen at birth can sustain brain damage known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). An anoxic brain injury in infants is a severe form of HIE.
Women with high-risk pregnancies may be at greater risk of anoxic brain injuries. Health conditions such as preeclampsia, obesity, and diabetes caused by pregnancy increase the risk of birth injuries, including brain damage. A physician should carefully monitor the pregnancy before and during labor and delivery to reduce the risk of brain injury.
Complications from health conditions can result in anoxic brain damage. Many times, physician error is also involved. The following can result in a brain damage from lack of oxygen.
Abnormal fetal position
The baby should be positioned in a low-risk position for labor and delivery. The lowest risk position is called the standard vertex position. When a baby is not in the standard position, the physician should typically act for the safety of the mother and baby. The physician may need to help reposition the baby, or a planned C-section delivery may be needed.
High blood pressure issues during pregnancy greatly contribute to newborn brain injury. This condition can decrease the flow of blood to the placenta. As a result, the baby may not get enough oxygen. If oxygen is cut off for a long enough time, the infant can suffer a brain injury.
CPR errors and delayed intubation
Infants who are not breathing well or at all after birth may need resuscitation. They might also need a tube placed into the airway to keep it open. Sometimes this tube is attached to a ventilator. Mistakes made during CPR or intubation can increase the risk of a brain injury from lack of oxygen.
If labor does not progress in line with standard timelines, a physician may determine if the labor is prolonged. At this point, the doctor may need to act to help the vaginal birth move forward. Doctors who let labor drag on for too long increase the risk to mother and baby. One risk associated with prolonged labor is lack of oxygen for the baby. This lack of oxygen can result in permanent injury.
Unfortunately, doctors can make mistakes that contribute to anoxic brain injury in infants. These brain injuries can happen when a physician fails to:
To prevent brain damage from oxygen loss, a doctor should monitor and respond to signs for fetal distress. A physician uses equipment to monitor the baby’s heart rate. When the equipment detects fetal distress, it means that the infant is not getting enough oxygen. Physicians are required to monitor the mother and baby and understand when fetal distress is about to occur, or if it is already happening. When this happens, an emergency C-section is often needed. Removing the baby quickly is key to preventing permanent harm. The severity of brain damage increases the longer that oxygen to the baby is cut off.
An infant who has a birth injury from lack of oxygen to the brain can have severe and long-lasting medical issues. These issues are not the same for each child and depend on many factors, such as the:
Unfortunately, hypoxic/anoxic brain injuries often result in permanent harm and disability. Some long- term outcomes from this type of brain damage include:
The birth of a child brings tremendous joy to new parents and families. This can be lost when a tragedy like birth injury or birth trauma occurs. A child can be seriously injured, permanently disabled, require life-long care, or even result in fatalities from a neonatal injury. The physical, emotional, and financial hardships endured by the parents, siblings, grandparents and other loved ones of a child injured at birth can be overwhelming and devastating.
Our attorneys have great experience in birth injury cases. We give personal attention to each child and family we help. Anoxic brain injury in infants creates astronomical medical expenses. When this injury is due to physician error, our attorneys can seek payment for these expenses. No family should have to suffer alone while dealing with a brain injury; our attorneys are here and can help make things right.