Thousands of babies are born each year with low oxygen levels, which creates a significant risk of death or long term brain injury. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) occurs when the brain does not receive an adequate amount of oxygen. Within minutes of oxygen deprivation, brain cells begin to die, making HIE a potentially fatal condition.
To protect newborns from the fatal results of HIE, doctors often use a cooling method where the infant is purposely placed into a state of hypothermia for a specific period of time.
According to a report in the medical journal Nature, this treatment is effective at preventing death and brain injury between birth and toddler years. The effectiveness in advanced ages has yet to be determined. Treated babies were found to have increased mental and physical well being than those who were not cooled. They were 60% more likely to exhibit normal levels of intelligence, auditory abilities and vision.
According to recent reports, researchers are now trying to determine whether longer and more intense cooling treatments will produce better results. An article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is discussing the results of a study on longer and deeper cooling methods. The details of the study were as follows:
***Full term neonates with moderate to severe hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy were placed into one of four categories for the cooling method
-33.5 degrees Celsius for 72 hours
-32 degrees Celsius for 72 hours
-33.5 degrees Celsius for 120 hours
-32 degrees Celsius for 120 hours
***The resulting death rates for each group were as follows:
-7% for the 33.5 degrees/ 72 hours group
-14% for the 32 degrees/ 72 hours group
-16% for the 33.5/120 hours group
-17% for the 32 degrees/120 hours group
The study was conducted between October 2010 and November 2013. When all results were reviewed, researchers concluded that longer, deeper cooling methods did not result in reduced NICU death rates.
The Responsibilities of the Physician
Neonatal Encephalopathy requires timely and adequate treatment in order to minimize the lasting effects on the child’s health. Attending physicians should look for symptoms of the condition at birth and act quickly to treat it. Resuscitation techniques should be started right after birth to establish and maintain adequate oxygen levels. The medical staff should also monitor the scores of Apgar tests, which are given at birth to evaluate the health of a newborn and identify any immediate medical concerns.
When doctors do not use due diligence to diagnose potential problems and adequately treat them, the results can prove deadly. Families are left to deal with the emotional and physical consequences, which may lead to extensive financial responsibilities. With the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney, the courts may find the treating physician liable and order compensation for the victim and family.
If your newborn experienced a birth injury stemming from encephalopathy, contact the experienced birth injury attorneys of Levin & Perconti today at (877) 374-1417 for a free consultation.