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Anoxic Brain Injury at Birth


The human body requires sufficient oxygen to function. When oxygen levels become dangerously low for about four minutes, brain cells begin to die, and an infant being born may experience anoxic brain injury. This birth injury can be life-threatening if the body does not receive adequate levels of oxygen in time.

Causes of Anoxic Brain Injury

Among the potential causes of and risk factors for oxygen deprivation and associated birth injury are:

  • placental abruption;
  • prolapsed umbilical cord;
  • poor fetal monitoring;
  • failure to perform C-section when necessary; and
  • improper response to fetal distress.

The most common symptom of anoxic trauma is loss of consciousness or coma. This will depend on the extent of the injury and the area of the brain that is injured due to the lack of oxygen.

Complications of Anoxic Brain Injury

When the brain does not receive enough oxygen, long-term medical problems can result. These include cognitive and physical problems such as:

  • Poor mental functioning. A child with anoxic trauma may experience developmental delays as a result of brain damage.
  • Vision problems. Visual information may be difficult to process. The eyes may appear normal, but the brain may be damaged, rendering the child blind.
  • Speech problems. A child who experiences a lack of oxygen during birth may have trouble communicating and may require a speech therapist.
  • Cerebral palsy. The child may experience muscle spasms and weakness or involuntary movements, as well as other complications associated with cerebral palsy.

Treatment for Anoxic Trauma

Treatment is initially performed by examining the cause of oxygen deprivation so the physicians and other medical staff can respond appropriately. If umbilical cord prolapse is causing the lack of oxygen to the child’s brain, steps to correct the problem should be performed. In some cases, this may require performing an emergency C-section to deliver the child immediately.

When the brain begins to take in more oxygen, rehabilitation may occur. Doctors, nurses and therapists work together to create a plan that may include physical, speech, occupational and recreational therapy, depending on the effects of the anoxic trauma and resultant brain damage.

Parents of children who suffer a birth injury related to the brain may find these medical and rehabilitative costs difficult to manage. If the injury is related to medical negligence, parents may consult an attorney about a potential legal claim.

Medical Negligence & Oxygen Deprivation

Medical mistakes or negligent behavior – such as failure to respond properly to signs of fetal distress and oxygen deprivation – can have lasting, life-long impacts on a child. Parents must establish that a medical professional acted negligently and that the negligence is associated with the injury.

For instance, if an emergency condition is present – such as placental abruption – steps should be taken to address the situation. If they are not, and it leads to oxygen deprivation that causes serious injury and long-lasting complications, then the medical professionals may be considered negligent.

Expert testimony is important when establishing whether a doctor acted in an inappropriate manner. Your attorney can secure the testimony of a medical expert who can testify whether the physician or other medical professional followed an accepted standard of care. If this standard was not followed, negligence may be established. Other evidence, such as medical records, also may be helpful.

Contacting a Personal Injury Attorney in Cleveland

If anoxic brain injury was caused by negligence, parents may seek financial recovery. Mike Becker can help clients understand their legal rights when these serious birth injuries occur. Contact us at (440) 252-4399.

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