Anoxic Brain Injury
The human brain needs oxygen to function, and any oxygen deprivation can negatively affect the brain. After about four minutes of oxygen deprivation, brain cells begin to die. After five or six minutes, a baby can die.
During a difficult delivery, many different things can prevent a baby from getting the oxygen he or she needs. If your doctor or another member of the medical team is the cause, then you might have a legal cause of action for medical malpractice. Meet with a Georgia medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to analyze your case.Medical Terms Related to Brain Injuries in Babies
Medical terms are confusing, and the media sometimes will use words interchangeably. You should understand the following terms:
- Anoxic brain injuries: these occur whenever a baby is totally deprived of oxygen during labor or delivery.
- Hypoxic brain injuries: these can occur whenever a baby receives inadequate oxygen during labor or delivery.
- Hypoxemia: the blood does not carry enough oxygen.
- Hypoxic hypoxia: oxygen is unable to get to the blood.
- Stagnant hypoxia: the baby’s blood is not flowing properly, which results in oxygen deprivation to the body parts where the blood does not flow.
Each of these conditions is serious and can result in brain injury to your baby.Causes of Anoxic Brain Injuries
Brain injuries can stem from medical mistakes made by a doctor. Doctors might also fail to identify symptoms of distress and not respond properly, which can also be medical negligence. Among the causes of oxygen deprivation are:
- Prolapsed umbilical cord. The umbilical cord carries oxygen to a baby until the cord is cut and the child breathes on their own. During delivery, the cord can become kinked or folded, which cuts off oxygen.
- Placental abruption. The placenta might separate prematurely from the uterus before childbirth, which can deprive a baby of oxygen.
- Inadequate response to fetal distress. The baby can exhibit signs of distress, such as a rapid heartbeat, when a pregnancy goes on too long or when it is difficult or rapid.
- Failing to perform a C-section. If the umbilical cord is prolapsed, then a doctor might decide to immediately perform a C-section to deliver the baby and limit any brain damage. If a doctor delays, then brain injuries can occur.
A baby suffering from oxygen deprivation might be unconscious when delivered, which is a sure sign that something wrong occurred during labor or delivery. A medical malpractice attorney in Georgia can help you better understand whether a doctor’s mistake is the cause of your child’s injuries.Diagnosing an Anoxic Brain Injury
If your baby was unconscious or has seizures, your doctor might suspect that your baby is suffering from inadequate oxygen flow to the brain. Your doctor can order different tests to properly diagnose whether an anoxic brain injury has occurred and to pinpoint the severity of the injury:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Images are taken of the entire brain, from the top of the skull down to the base. A doctor can order an MRI within 12 hours after birth.
- Cranial ultrasound. A doctor might use an ultrasound to identify hemorrhaging inside the brain.
- Electroencephalogram. This test measures activity in the brain.
Unfortunately, medical staff sometimes is not aware that an anoxic brain injury occurred. Instead, problems will not manifest until years down the road, when parents recognize developmental delays with their children.Treating Anoxic Brain Trauma
Competent medical staff should be able to identify risk factors for potential anoxic brain trauma and take steps to treat them. For example, a doctor can use hypothermia therapy, which cools your baby’s body temperature for several days after birth. This treatment can increase your baby’s chances of survival and minimize the long-term consequences of anoxic brain injuries.
As your child grows, some rehabilitation can occur. The amount of recovery will depend on the severity of the oxygen deprivation and the steps a doctor took immediately after delivery.
Some children do not make a full recovery. Instead, they will have lingering effects as they grow older, such as:
- Speech delays or impairment
- Limb weakness or spastic muscles
- Attention deficit disorder
- Behavioral problems, such as emotional outbursts
- Impaired vision
- Impaired memory
- Poor reasoning and processing ability
Children and their families need rehabilitation and medication to help the child make as much progress as possible while they grow. For example, physical therapy can help a child with mobility and balance, while medication might be necessary to control emotional outbursts or manage ADD. Children with impaired vision could benefit from special glasses and computer-assisted technologies to help them in school.
Families should be prepared for a lifetime of managing the effects of oxygen deprivation at birth. Nevertheless, with the help of occupational and physical therapy, many children go on to be productive adults.Receiving Compensation for Anoxic Brain Injuries
By far, the biggest expense associated with brain injuries in children is the cost of medical care. Early intervention is expensive, but lifelong medication, therapy, and rehabilitation can also be prohibitive. If a doctor's error contributed to your child's brain injury, you could seek compensation from the doctor's medical malpractice insurer. At Slappey & Sadd, our clients have sought compensation for past, present, and future medical care as well as for emotional distress.How a Georgia Medical Malpractice Attorney can Help
Few parents have the financial resources to pay for a lifetime of care for a child with a brain injury. Instead, they need compensation when a doctor’s medical negligence contributes to their child’s injury.
To receive compensation, parents must show that a doctor made a medical error during delivery and that this error contributed to the anoxic brain injury. Often, our clients have no idea how to go about doing this. They are not doctors, and jurors are not medically competent either to assess the evidence and determine if the doctor made a mistake.
In many cases, you will need an expert witness to testify about whether the doctor’s conduct fell below the accepted standard of care. One of the advantages of working with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in Georgia is that we can find credible expert witnesses who can testify on your behalf. A good witness should have impeccable credentials but also be able to explain difficult medical issues to a jury in a way they can understand.