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Anoxic Encephalopathy - Cerebral Palsy Medical Malpractice Lawyer

LAWYER HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7145

Anoxic encephalopathy is a brain injury in which the brain and/or spinal cord have a lack of oxygen for a period of time which damages and kills the nerve cells. Anoxic encephalopathy can lead to cerebral palsy and other types of brain injury including stroke-like symptoms. Anoxic encephalopathy and hypoxic encephalopathy are basically the same thing and mean 'no oxygen' for the growing brain cells.

Anoxic Encephalopathy Causes

Anoxic encephalopathy is most common in newborns who do not get the blood supply they need either in the womb before birth or during the birthing process. The birthing process is a tenuous time for infants and mothers - a lot can go wrong. The placenta can separate too soon causing bleeding and a lack of oxygen-rich blood to the baby; the cord can be wrapped around the baby's neck or body, cutting off the circulation and the contractions can become 'titanic constant' so that the oxygen cannot flow to the arteries leading to the uterus. In some cases, anoxic encephalopathy can occur due to a doctor's negligence such as using poor judgement and attempting to deliver a breech baby, allowing low heart rate to continue rather than do an emergency cesarean section or giving medications improperly.


The symptoms of anoxic encephalopathy can vary with the infant, the amount of anoxia, the length of time of the anoxic episode and the parts of the brain involved. Anoxic encephalopathy symptoms can vary also with the length of time since the anoxic episode occurred. Initially, the baby can have floppy muscles or a decreased level of consciousness, poor feeding or irritability. Later on, the muscles can become spastic and can become 'cerebral palsy'. Some children maintain their hypotonic state but the vast majority becomes spastic over time.


Some babies can have cerebral anoxia or hypoxia as newborns or young infants. This can occur with severe anemia from various causes and severe asthma, which cuts off airflow to the infant's lungs. The brain isn't getting enough oxygen and the motor and cognitive parts of the brain can suffer from damage.


There are four types of anoxic encephalopathy: 1) diffuse cerebral hypoxia, 2) focal cerebral hypoxia or ischemia, 3) cerebral infarction or stroke and 4) diffuse cerebral hypoxia. All of these can cause areas of lack of oxygen to the brain cells, neuronal cell death and apoptosis (cellular death). This is a permanent phenomenon that results in things like stroke and cerebral palsy. When anoxic encephalopathy results in cerebral palsy, it generally affects the cells lining the fluid-filled spaces within the brain, which are the motor cells. The motor cells die, leading to hypotonia of the affected muscles and eventual spasticity of the muscles.

Diffuse Cerebral Hypoxia

In diffuse cerebral hypoxia, there is a mild lack of oxygenation to all areas of the brain so that there is a reasonable chance of recovery over time. In focal cerebral ischemia, a near-stroke has occurred and the symptoms are similar to that of an adult stroke. There can be weakness to a side of the body or spasticity, depending on how long it's been since the insult to the brain. Global ischemia occurs when there is a lack of blood flow and oxygenation to the brain that is complete and total for a period of time to cause profound brain damage. This is a serious injury which can result in coma or a persistent vegetative state. In a massive cerebral infarction, parts of the brain can die, leading to a completed stroke that affects many areas of the brain including speech centers, motor and sensory centers.


Can anoxic encephalopathy be treated? There is some evidence that, with infants starved of oxygen during the birth process can undergo therapy aimed at cooling the infant (hypothermic therapy) within six hours of the onset of cerebral hypoxia. It improves survival and reduces the degree of cerebral palsy the child sustains when compared to infants who did not receive the hypothermic therapy. There are risks in doing hypothermic therapy but these are small when compared to having cerebral palsy for the rest of the infant's life.

Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Most cases of cerebral palsy occur naturally as a birth injury and do not involve medical malpractice however a small percentage of these cases are most definitely caused by negligence on the part of healthcare professionals. If you have any reason whatsoever to suspect that your child's condition has been caused by a clinical error amounting to medical malpractice on the part of any healthcare professional, be it a doctor, midwife, nurse or technician please contact us without delay. There are time limits on claims against medical staff, hospitals and clinics and delay can preclude an award of compensation. Our medical malpractice lawyers offer a free consultation without obligation to establish whether or not you have a viable case to claim compensation for your child's injuries. Please contact us without delay by completion of the contact form or you can email our offices and a specialist medical malpractice lawyer will call you.

LAWYER HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7145