HIE and Therapeutic Hypothermia

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What is Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)?

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain damage that occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen and blood flow during or shortly after birth.

A lack of oxygen and blood flow can happen due to a variety of reasons such as maternal health issues, placental insufficiency, infection and/or fetal distress.

HIE is a serious condition that can lead to long-term cognitive and neurological problems. The extent and severity of the complications depend on the degree of brain damage and the areas of the brain that were affected. Long term complications include:

  • Developmental Delays: Children with HIE may experience delays in reaching developmental milestones such as sitting, crawling, walking, and talking
  • Cognitive Impairments: HIE can result in intellectual disabilities and problems with memory, attention, and learning
  • Seizures: HIE increases the risk of developing seizures and seizure disorders, which may require ongoing medication
  • Cerebral Palsy: HIE can lead to cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect movement and posture
  • Vision and Hearing: HIE may cause vision and hearing impairments, which can affect learning and communication
  • Behavioral Issues: HIE may result in behavioral and emotional problems such as hyperactivity
  • HIE can also increase the risk of other medical complications such as respiratory problems, feeding difficulties and infections

What is therapeutic hypothermia and how is it used as a form of treatment for HIE?

Therapeutic hypothermia, also known as cooling therapy, is a treatment used to reduce the severity of brain damage in newborns who have suffered from HIE.

Therapeutic hypothermia involves lowering the baby’s body temperature for a period of 72 hours. This is typically done by placing the baby on a cooling mat or blanket.

Therapeutic hypothermia works by reducing the metabolic rate and inflammation in the brain which helps to protect and repair the damaged brain cells. After the 72-hour cooling period the baby’s body temperature is gradually raised back to normal. The treatment must be carefully monitored and managed by a team of experienced medical professionals.

It is important that HIE is diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible to minimize the damage to the brain and improve the child’s long-term outcomes.

Children who have suffered from HIE often require extraordinary care which can include nursing care, rehab support and assistance from personal support workers. There are also various therapies such as Occupational Therapy, Speech Language Therapy and Physiotherapy that are very beneficial.

These therapies are extremely costly, and there are limited government-funded programs. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help to ensure that the current and future cost of these therapies and devices is included as part of a medical negligence claim, so that a child can have all the necessary supports and obtain the care that they need to help them thrive.

Contact our Toronto birth injury lawyers for a consultation

If you or a loved one have a child that has been impacted by HIE, contact our birth injury lawyers for a free consultation. Our team will review the details of your case and go over any available legal options you may be eligible to pursue. You can book your consultation with our injury lawyers by calling us, chatting with us via online chat or filling out a form consultation request here.  

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