What is HIE?

What is HIE?


Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) occurs when the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen for a period of time. Neonatal HIE specifically is when the lack of oxygen, or asphyxia, occurs during pregnancy or delivery. While there is treatment available called therapeutic hypothermia, the newborn brain can still experience irreversible damage even with appropriate hypothermia treatment. It has been said that HIE is the single greatest contributor to overall disability.  

HIE can occur when fetal distress (a low heart rate and/or low oxygen) occurred during or after labor and delivery. This can result in a range of outcomes including children with no health issues, to death or severe and permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy or developmental delays.  



HIE, asphyxia, head cooling

Therapeutic hypothermia is a treatment in which doctors cool a newborn immediately after a traumatic delivery where HIE is suspected. This is done by either doing whole-body or head-cooling directly after birth to prevent further damage to the brain.  


The therapy involves: 

  • Placing a thermal cap on the baby’s head or placing the baby on a cooling blanket 
  • Reducing the temperature to around 33 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Monitoring the infant for approximately three days 

Legal Help is Available  

There are many instances where a birth injury lawsuit may be appropriate due to a traumatic birth and subsequent brain injury despite cooling treatments. For example: 

  • Failure to treat brain damage with head cooling when it is appropriate
  • Improper administration of head cooling 
  • Delaying of head cooling treatment after a traumatic birth 
  • Missed diagnosis of HIE, causing a failure to treat with head cooling

Because medical personnel must meet a standard of care when delivering a child, failing to meet that standard of care that results in injury can lead to a birth injury lawsuit. 


If you suspect a medical mistake during labor and delivery created the need for cooling treatment, or your baby was injured as a result of cooling, it’s important you seek help from a trusted birth injury attorney. The legal team at Holton Law Firm is ready to advocate for you and your baby, and we invite you to review our free guide, Answers to Parents’ Questions About Birth Injuries