Hypoxic Brain Injury

For the parents of a child who has suffered a hypoxic brain injury, their lives change forever.  It is not just newborns who can be affected however.  Anyone of any age can suffer a hypoxic brain injury, which could leave them completely dependent on others for their daily care.  If the hypoxic brain injury has been caused by the negligence of another person, compensation can be claimed.

IBB Solicitors has a team of highly experienced solicitors who specialise in complex personal injury claims and have advised and represented many victims and families who have suffered brain injury.

What is a hypoxic brain injury?

The human brain is hungry and cannot survive without oxygen.  Adult brains consume around 20% of the body’s oxygen.  Cerebral hypoxia occurs when the flow of oxygen to the brain is partially interrupted.  Oxygen is needed for the brain to make use of glucose and if it does not get enough oxygen, blood cells start to quickly die.

What causes a hypoxic brain injury?

There are a number of reasons that a newborn may not get enough oxygen before, during and after birth.  Common causes of cerebral hypoxia include:

  • birth asphyxia
  • inadequate foetal monitoring before, during and after birth
  • the mother suffers from anaemia
  • prolonged and/or difficult labour, resulting in the baby becoming stuck in the birth canal
  • problems with the umbilical cord, for example twisting, prolapse or being cut too soon after birth
  • mucous blocking the baby’s airways
  • placental eruptions
  • the mother smokes during pregnancy
  • premature birth

What are the symptoms of a hypoxic brain injury?

If your newborn experienced a lack of oxygen at birth, then doctors should immediately test the baby for brain injury.  It is vital that you watch out for any signs that may indicate a hypoxic brain injury.  These include:

  • floppiness and/or unresponsiveness
  • difficulty breathing/gasping for air
  • excessive crying and fussing
  • refusing to feed
  • decreased motor control
  • jerky and spastic motions
  • cannot be woken from sleep

It is vital that medical staff act quickly as brain cells deprived of oxygen die off in minutes. 

Treatment

Brain damage caused by hypoxia can be minimised and sometimes completely avoided if health professionals act quickly.  First, the baby must be resuscitated and the flow of oxygen must be stabilised.  Once this is done other treatment such as hypo-or-hyperthermia management, fluid management, and ensuring adequate ventilation can be considered.

In recent years, cooling therapy (also known as neonatal therapeutic hypothermia) has been used to minimise or prevent brain damage caused by birth hypoxia.  Scientific studies have shown that if a baby’s brain can be cooled down below normal body temperature (which is 37° C) at hypothermic temperatures (ranging in between 33.5° to 35° C) within six hours after birth, the effect of the hypoxia on the brain may be interrupted.  The treatment involves a blanket filled with water being placed underneath the baby.  Treatment usually lasts for around three days, after which the baby is gradually warmed in a controlled way.

Doctors and nursing staff will closely monitor your baby’s heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, blood pressure and oxygen saturation during the treatment. Your baby will be on a ventilator to help them with breathing if they need it.

Cooling treatment is still a relatively new procedure.  Babies who receive it are closely monitored as they grow up, to ensure their development progresses normally.

Malcolm always gets to know his clients, their families and their networks properly.

What are the different types of hypoxic brain injuries?

Fortunately, many cases of mild or even moderate birth hypoxia do not result in any long term damage.  However, severe cerebral hypoxia can result in your baby suffering from a serious brain injury.  The outcome depends on how much oxygen was lost and the particular part of the brain deprived and how long the depravation lasted.

Your baby’s brain injury following an episode of cerebral hypoxia can range from mild to severe.  Complications can include:

  • learning difficulties
  • speech impairments
  • seizures/epilepsy
  • behavioural problems
  • delays in gross motor skill development such as sitting and crawling
  • visual and hearing impairments
  • Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy explained

Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to the brain before, during or after birth.  Cerebral Palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.

Cerebral Palsy affects individuals differently.  Some suffers may require life-long care, others, because they only experience mild to moderate tremors, can live a relatively normal life.

Unfortunately, the condition is permanent and incurable.

Can I claim compensation for a hypoxic brain injury?

Heather Miller is a brain injury case manager who deals with patients with serious head and brain injuries.

You can claim compensation for a hypoxic-anoxic brain injury if you can prove that the brain injury was caused by another person or organisation’s negligent acts or omissions.  For example, if your baby has suffered a brain injury due to cerebral hypoxia, then to claim compensation, you and your solicitor would need to show:

  1. That the doctors, nurses, midwives and/or hospital owed you a duty of care;
  2. This duty was breached; and
  3. Your baby suffered damage (i.e. a brain injury) as a result.

It is relatively easy for a solicitor experienced in hypoxic brain injury claims to establish that the private clinic or NHS Trust and their staff owed the victim of a brain injury caused by birth hypoxia a duty of care. 

In deciding whether or not the duty was breached, the claimant must show that whatever the doctor did or did not do fell below the standard of a reasonably competent doctor in that particular field of medicine. The test of whether a doctor breached the duty of care owed to a patient is whether he or she has failed to meet the standard of a reasonable body of other practitioners also skilled in that field. This is known as the “Bolam test”.

As a claimant, you must also prove, on the balance of probabilities, that your infant’s brain injury was caused by the hypoxia.  This is often the most difficult part of the claim to prove; therefore, it is imperative that you instruct a lawyer who is experienced in bringing brain injury claims.

How much compensation will I get?

The amount of compensation you will get depends on the extent of your child’s brain injury and the effect on their life and yours.  For severe brain injuries, which have resulted in a person being unable to live a normal life and requiring round-the-clock care, millions of pounds in compensation have been awarded.

Large compensation awards are often desperately needed by parents.  Many have had to give up work in order to care for their child, make expensive adjustments to their home and pay for additional care and support.  If your baby’s hypoxic brain damage was caused by the negligence of the doctors or other healthcare professionals present at the birth, then it is fair and just that the NHS Trust or private clinic responsible assist you in the long-term care of your child.

How do I make a claim?

IBB Claims are experts in the field of hospital and medical negligence. 

The first step in making a claim is to contact us.  We deal with every situation in a sensitive, professional manner and will make a thorough assessment of your case.  Claims for hypoxic brain injury require expert medical opinion, which we will organise on your behalf. 

Our legal team are committed to ensuring clients feel fully supported throughout the claims process.  We will quickly establish the facts of your case and explain our strategy for obtaining compensation in straight-forward terms.  From medical reports to mediation or court proceedings, we will ensure that you feel fully informed every step of the way.

What is the process of making a claim?

Firstly, you need to contact a solicitor who has experience in dealing with brain injury claims.  The team at IBB can assist you with evaluating whether or not you have a chance of successfully claiming compensation and then work on a strategy of how to ensure that compensation for the hypoxic brain damage is awarded.  We understand that parents of newborns and older children who have suffered a brain injury due to birth hypoxia are often coping with many stresses in their everyday life; therefore, our personal injury solicitors work hard to make clients feel as relaxed and confident as possible about their case.

After we have established the case for negligence, our solicitors will inform the NHS Trust or authority responsible for the hospital in which you gave birth that you are making a claim for compensation on behalf of your child for brain damage caused by birth hypoxia.

The relevant authority will have 90 days to conduct its own investigation into the matter, and either admit negligence occurred or challenge the claim.  If the claim is challenged, we will issue court proceedings as soon as possible.

We give our clients the confidence to keep fighting for justice because we believe in them.  We also have an in-depth understanding of the litigation process and can engage highly-qualified, experienced counsel to advocate for you in court.

How long with the process take?

The time it takes to settle a claim for hypoxic brain injury varies.    Our solicitors will keep you fully informed on how your hypoxic brain injury compensation claim is progressing.  We understand our clients are keen for information about their case and we endeavour to ensure that they always understand where their case is up to and the next steps our legal team plan to take.

Our personal injury solicitors will leave you in no doubt that you are receiving the best representation possible.

Will I have to go to court?

In a majority of cases, compensation claims settle outside of court.  Our personal injury lawyers have dealt with many claims for brain damage and understand how traumatic attending court is for both the parents and the victim. 

Our team are experienced in alternative disputes resolution, including mediation and strive to ensure your compensation claim is settled as early as possible.

If you are required to attend court, we will provide you with a full range of support and guidance.  Everything will be explained in plain, simple language and we will swiftly answer any questions you may have about the process.

How much will it cost to make a claim?

At IBB we understand that many families coping with a child with a hypoxic brain injury are already under pressure financially.  Therefore, we offer ‘conditional fee arrangements’, otherwise known as ‘no win, no fee’.  This means that if your claim is unsuccessful, you will not have to pay any legal fees to our solicitors.

We take on the full risk of your claim, including paying for expert medical opinions and witnesses to give evidence.  Therefore, you can feel confident that if we take your case on that our expert solicitors know they have a  reasonable chance of successfully winning compensation for your newborn’s brain injury resulting from birth hypoxia.

You can further protect yourself by taking out insurance to cover the other side’s costs if the court orders that you must pay them.

We will fully explain all of this when we meet you .  We will ensure that you understand what you are committing to before we proceed with your claim.  If you have any questions once we start on your case, you can speak directly to your personally appointed solicitor who will liaise with you fully throughout the process.

Contact our brain injury lawyers for expert advice

Our personal injury team at IBB Claims has acquired a national reputation for our expertise around brain injury claims and for ensuring a professional, empathetic and friendly approach to all of the cases we handle.

If you would like further information on making a compensation claim hypoxic brain injury, please call our office on 0333 323 1637