Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy and Cerebral Palsy
It is misconception that all children who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy have developed the condition purely as a result of being starved of oxygen at birth.
Expert opinion indicates that between 8 to 12% of children diagnosed with cerebral palsy do so as a result of oxygen starvation, also described as birth asphyxia.
A baby developing in the womb is called a neonate and they receive oxygen through mums umbilical cord.
The birth process sees baby make a magical journey from the relative safety of mums womb, through the birth cannel and out into the world beyond.
The vast majority of births are straightforward but there are occasions when the birth can become complex and perilous especially if oxygen flow becomes restricted.
Adequate oxygen intake is vital to allow baby to breath and develop. if levels drop baby's organs may suffer damage. The brain is the part of the body most at risk of damage especially if oxygen levels are low for a prolonged time.
If the whole of the brain is deprived of oxygen, but not totally, a condition occurs which is called Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE).
What is Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy?
It's easier to understand what HIE is by looking at the words which form its name:
'Hypoxic' means reduced oxygen. 'Ischemic means restricted blood flow and Encephalopathy is in essence 'brain disease'.
Therefore Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy is a disease of the brain brought on by oxygen deprivation as a result of lack of oxygen or oxygenated blood supply. HIE is a cause of cerebral palsy.
HIE does not only affect babies, it can impact at all ages and in later life may become complicated by cardiac arrest.
Causes of HIE
There are a host of causes of HIE and these include:
For further reading: Hope For HIE
Symptoms of HIE
Symptoms associated with a baby suffering from
Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy include:
Magnetic Resonance imaging, more popularly called MRI is usually the method used to determine if a baby has suffered HIE.
Treatment of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy
The type of treatment a baby receives depends on the severity of the condition.
Babies with moderate to severe HIE are often given a treatment called mild hypothermia, this is a type of cooling which helps limit the extent of the brain injury.
Other treatments used are designed to help maintain normal glucose levels, normal blood pressure and prevent and control seizures.
Can HIE be prevented?
It may not be possible to prevent HIE as there are many reasons, however it is possible to reduce the risk of the condition.
For example: Appropriate fetal monitoring during delivery and a good standard of ante-natal care.