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New Scoring System for MRIs Can Help with Therapies for Children with Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE, occurs when a lack of oxygen causes a brain injury. The brain of a fetus or a newborn can tolerate short periods of oxygen deprivation, but if the brain is without oxygen for too long, severe and permanent damage may result. HIE is responsible for many deaths or severe disabilities in newborns.

HIE has been linked to developmental delays, motor impairments, neurodevelopmental delays, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and cognitive impairment. However, the full extent of such impairments typically cannot be detected until a child is three or four years old. It has long been recognized that it would be beneficial if there were a way to determine much earlier which children would have developmental delays, so that specific treatments could be deployed earlier.

A recent study addresses this problem.

The study explains that in HIE, the deep nuclear gray matter of the brain is often injured. This injury appears on MRI scans done shortly after birth. Researchers developed a sort of grading scale for interpreting such MRIs that emphasized certain changes in the gray matter of the brain. Using this scale, neuroradiologists can look at these MRIs and come up with an “injury score.” The question is whether that injury score really gives insight into which babies ultimately will develop significant impairments.

The study examined MRI scans from 57 babies that underwent MRIs in the first two weeks of life—most within the first week. Researchers “scored” the MRIs using the scale they had developed. They then compared these grades to the neurodevelopmental impairments of these same children when they reached the ages of 18-24 months.

In 54 out of 57 of the babies, higher scores on the grading scale were significantly associated with worse outcomes in language, motor, and cognitive development at 18-24 months. The researchers concluded that their grading scale or “scoring system” could be used to predict which newborns were likely to develop impairments, so that interventions and therapies could be deployed right away, without waiting for the impairments to become evident. Now, instead of waiting for a child to turn three or four, doctors and parents can take a proactive approach.

What causes HIE?

Of course, asphyxia, or a lack of oxygen, is the most significant risk factor for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. Preventing asphyxia during birth and delivery significantly reduces the odds of a newborn developing HIE. Complications that may lead to asphyxia include:

A number of complications may cause asphyxia in newborns. However, with proper medical intervention, many of these events may be prevented, or their effects may be reduced. If doctors, nurses, and other medical staff do not recognize risk factors for HIE and do not act accordingly, an infant may suffer HIE. In many cases, HIE is entirely preventable.

If medical professionals do not act within professional standards, and a newborn suffers HIE, a medical malpractice claim may be appropriate. Medical malpractice lawyers file these claims on behalf of injured babies and their families. Medical malpractice attorneys may obtain a variety of damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and the exorbitant cost of future medical care for these children.

Was your child injured during birth? If so, contact our skilled Ohio medical malpractice attorneys today for guidance

If you feel that your child was injured before, during, or after birth, you need to speak with an experienced Cleveland medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. The state of Ohio limits the amount of time parents have to file birth injury claims. To schedule your free consultation with the experienced birth injury attorneys at The Eisen Law Firm, call 216-687-0900 or contact us online.