Brain ischemia occurs when brain cells are permanently damaged due to a lack of adequate blood flow. The human brain requires a constant flow of blood to sustain itself. Blood supplies the brain with oxygen and nutrients. When the supply and/or circulation of blood to the brain is interrupted, the brain is deprived of essential oxygen and brain cells began to die. Once brain cells die they cannot be restored and the damage is permanent.Causes of Infant Brain Ischemia
Infant brain ischemia can occur when blood and oxygen flood to the baby is cut off or interrupted during pregnancy or during labor and delivery. There are a number of complications or events that can potentially interrupt blood flow to a baby's brain and result in brain ischemia:
Placental Abruption is a rare but dangerous pregnancy complication where the placenta becomes fully or partially separated from the inside of the uterus. When placental abruption occurs and is not treated it can restrict and even completely block the supply of oxygen to the baby
Umbilical Cord Compression. The umbilical cord is the primary pathway for the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to a baby during pregnancy. Anytime the umbilical cord becomes pinched or compressed in the womb it can interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the baby. If not diagnosed and managed this can result in brain ischemia.
Maternal Infection. If a pregnant mother develops an infection it that is not properly diagnosed and treated it can interrupt blood flow to the baby and result in injury.
Preeclampsia / Eclampsia. Preeclampsia and eclampsia are conditions that occur when a pregnant mother's blood pressure gets too high. Excessively high maternal blood pressure will reduce blood flow to the fetus. Reduced blood flow to the fetus can, in turn, result in infant brain ischemia.
Shoulder Dystocia. Shoulder dystocia is a complication that can occur during labor and delivery where the baby's shoulder becomes stuck in the birth canal. Shoulder dystocia often puts pressure on the baby and can involve compression of the umbilical cord. Shoulder dystocia requires a fast and skilled response by the delivery team and leads to a lot of shoulder dystocia malpractice claims. Brain ischemia from blood flow interruption is one of the many common injuries that can result from mismanagement of shoulder dystocia.
Rapid Labor / Fast Contractions. Abnormally fast contractions and rapid labor can create conditions that temporarily restrict blood flow to the baby's brain. This is particularly true when a sinusoidal fetal heart rate (SHR) pattern is seen on the fetal monitor during rapid labor.
Overuse of Labor Inducing Drugs. In many pregnancies drugs such as Pitocin and Cervidil are administered to induce labor. Sometimes overuse of these labor inducing drugs can result in reduced blood and oxygen flow to the fetus.
Brain ischemia is not an injury but rather the name of a medical condition (reduction of blood supply to the brain) that causes various types of injuries. Infant brain ischemia and brain damage are known to cause a number of birth injuries including cerebral palsy, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), developmental delays, hearing loss, and even infant death.Medical Malpractice Involving Infant Brain Ischemia
A large percentage of birth injuries are ultimately due to avoidable medical error on the part of doctors and/or the hospital delivery team. The standard of accepted medical care requires the delivery team to properly monitor for the complications that can interrupt blood flow to the baby's brain during pregnancy or delivery. Doctors and hospital staff are also expected to manage and respond to these complications in a competent and skilled manner. When care falls short of these standards and your baby is injured as a result you may have a claim for medical malpractice.Sample Infant Brain Ischemia Verdicts & Settlements
Doe v. Def. Hospital (2018 Mass.) $2.1 million settlement: In this Massachusetts case the use of Pitocin to induce labor caused a placental abruption (a common side effect of Pitocin) which the hospital delivery team failed to recognize and effectively manage. The placental abruption caused brain ischemia which resulted in permanent brain damage. Just prior to trial the case was settled for $2.1 million.
Bulger v. Evans.McMahon (2013 Mass.) $4.25 million settlement: Another case from the Boston area involving infant brain ischemia. In this case, the blood flow to the baby's brain was apparently interrupted by umbilical cord compression during labor.
Martinez, Pro Ami v. Johns Hopkins Hosp. (2012 Maryland) $55 million verdict: in this case brain ischemia resulting in cerebral palsy occurred during prolonged difficult delivery where the hospital was allegedly negligent. (This verdict was overturned on appeal.)
If you or someone you know has delivered a baby with injuries resulting from infant brain ischemia, you may be entitled to legal compensation. Contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Miller & Zois for a free consultation and case evaluation. You can contact us by phone at 1.800.553.8082 or submit a request for a free consultation.