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Illinois birth injury attorneysEven though thousands of children are born every day, labor and delivery can be risky, and children can suffer birth injuries due to negligence by doctors, nurses, or other hospital staff. Brain injuries are some of the most serious types of birth injuries, and they can lead to cerebral palsy, cognitive impairments, loss of vision or hearing, and other permanent disabilities. In many cases, brain injuries are caused by a lack of oxygen during labor and delivery, and cooling is one form of treatment that can be effective in preventing further brain damage.

How Is Cooling Used to Treat Birth Injuries?

There are a variety of issues that can occur during birth that may cut off the supply of oxygen to an infant. These include placental abruption, umbilical cord prolapse, uterine rupture, or any other conditions that affect the flow of blood and oxygen throughout the child’s body. Asphyxia during birth can cause a condition known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). In these cases, a lack of oxygen to the brain can cause brain cells to die, and when blood flow resumes, toxins released by dead cells can cause additional brain damage, leading to a chain reaction that can cause extensive brain injuries or death.

To reduce brain damage, a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) may use therapeutic hypothermia, or total body cooling. This treatment involves placing the child on a blanket which circulates cool water near the child’s body, lowering their body temperature to around 92 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will be maintained for 72 hours before the child’s body is allowed to return to its normal temperature. Cooling therapy can limit the spread of toxins and reduce the chances of additional brain injuries.

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Chicago birth injury attorneysDuring the process of labor and delivery, a child’s condition should be monitored closely, and medical personnel should respond quickly to any issues that could lead to birth injuries. Electronic fetal monitoring is often used to view and record an infant’s heart rate during labor, and doctors and nurses are trained to recognize the signs of fetal distress. If personnel do not properly interpret fetal heart rate tracings, or if they do not respond correctly to issues that could threaten the health of the child, this may be considered medical malpractice.

Category II vs. Category III Fetal Heart Rate Tracings

When electronic fetal monitoring is used, fetal heart rate (FHR) tracings will typically fall into one of three categories. Category I tracings are considered normal, and they are usually a sign that labor can proceed without risks or complications. Category II or III tracings, however, may indicate that a child is experiencing distress, and action may need to be taken to protect the child’s safety or ensure that delivery can be completed while minimizing the risk of injury.

Category II tracings are considered “indeterminate,” and they may include a slower heart rate than normal (bradycardia) or a rapid heart rate (tachycardia). Category III tracings are more serious, and they may involve rapid acceleration or deceleration of heart rate or repetitive changes that fall outside of normal FHR patterns. Both category II and category III tracings may indicate that a child is experiencing problems that may affect their ability to deliver oxygen to the brain, and lack of oxygen may lead to permanent brain injuries.

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