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Neonatal Oxygen Deprivation

Oxygen deprivation during the birth process is one of the most common birth complications. It is estimated that 3 out of 1,000 newborns are affected. Different tools can be used by medical professionals to evaluate the severity of oxygen deprivation, clinically known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), in newborn babies. HIE is a condition characterized by decreased oxygen and blood flow to the baby’s brain before, during, or shortly after birth that can lead to neurological complications and potential brain damage. 

One of the tools available, the Sarnat score, was developed in 1976. It helps in the identification of clinical signs of HIE. It is administered bedside, which makes it a valuable tool. The Sarnat Staging Score provides a relatively simple and standardized way to categorize the severity of HIE, helping clinicians to quickly assess the level of brain injury in newborns. It assists in determining appropriate treatment strategies and interventions for newborns at risk for or exhibiting symptoms of HIE, which can significantly affect outcomes and long-term health. The Sarnat score also helps communication among healthcare professionals by allowing for consistency when making collaborative decisions regarding the care of the infant. 

However, the specific use of the Sarnat score may vary across different healthcare facilities, regions, or individual healthcare providers. Some institutions might have their own assessment protocols or might use additional scoring systems or diagnostic tools in conjunction with or instead of the Sarnat staging score.

The Sarnat staging system consists of three stages, and it helps in categorizing the severity of HIE based on the clinical presentation of the newborn shortly after birth. The stages are as follows:

  • Stage I: Mild HIE:
    • Newborns in Stage I may appear irritable, with mild symptoms such as subtle changes in muscle tone or reflexes.
    • Some newborns might exhibit feeding difficulties or mild respiratory problems.
    • Seizures might be present but are often mild.
  • Stage II: Moderate HIE:
    • Newborns in Stage II show more significant signs of brain injury.
    • They may appear lethargic, with reduced responsiveness and muscle tone.
    • Breathing difficulties, such as irregular or shallow breathing, may be more pronounced.
    • Seizures are typically more severe and frequent.
  • Stage III: Severe HIE:
    • Newborns in Stage III show profound depression of the central nervous system.
    • They might be comatose, with little to no responsiveness.
    • Muscle tone is often extremely low, and they may have difficulty breathing, requiring mechanical ventilation.
    • Seizures can be severe and persistent.

Most babies with mild HIE recover quickly. If your baby has mild HIE, your doctor will monitor your baby closely to check that they are stable and do not need any more treatment. A baby with moderate to severe HIE is at risk of death or long-lasting damage to the brain.

Early recognition and classification of HIE severity is crucial for providing timely and appropriate medical interventions to minimize potential brain damage and improve the long-term outcomes for affected newborns. 

Contact HPS Legal

If you think you have a birth injury case, time is of the essence. Birth injury cases can be complex, and seeking legal advice early is essential to preserving your rights. There is a two-year statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit, and the information-gathering process, which is part of that timeframe, can be time-consuming. Do not hesitate to contact a Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney or Orlando medical malpractice lawyer at Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm right away. Our firm has handled numerous birth injury cases and can help you determine if you have a valid claim. For a free and confidential legal consultation, contact us online or call us at 1-800-693-4465.