Also called neonatal encephalopathy, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy occurs when a newborn baby in Connecticut does not get enough oxygen or the blood flow to the brain is less than normal. Deprivation of either blood or oxygen can damage the brain, causing complications that could last a lifetime. According to USCF Benioff Children’s Hospital, possible effects of HIE include cerebral palsy, cognitive impairment, developmental delay and epilepsy. These may range from mild to severe.
Symptoms of HIE can vary depending on the severity of the condition. It is common for babies with HIE to have muscle weakness, which can cause difficulties with feeding. They may also experience seizures or trouble with muscle control. They may react abnormally to stimuli, with some exhibiting a hypersensitive response and others remaining unreactive. They may also show signs of organ dysfunction or have a weak cry. Blood work may show abnormalities as well.
Children’s Wisconsin points out that HIE can occur during birth, as well as before or after. Different risk factors may be present at each stage of the birthing process. Severe prematurity can contribute to HIE, as can an abnormal fetal position or umbilical cord blockage. The mother’s drug or alcohol use during pregnancy is a risk factor for the baby developing HIE. Additional risk factors include severe fetal anemia and infections that occur while the baby is still in utero.
The only treatment available to prevent brain damage from HIE is cooling. Also called therapeutic hypothermia, this involves wrapping the baby in a cooling blanket for three days. This lowers the baby’s body temperature, which research has proven effective at reducing brain damage from HIE. However, this treatment must take place quickly. Babies who are less than six hours old derive the most benefit from cooling.