What is hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy?
Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE, is a medical term
that means brain injury resulting from too little blood flow
or oxygen delivery to the brain. This condition is also
called neonatal encephalopathy.
• Hypoxic [hye-POK-sik]: not enough oxygen
• Ischemic [is-KEM-ik]: not enough
blood flow
• Encephalopathy [en-sef-a-lo-path-ee]:
a sign of possible brain injury
What causes HIE?
There are many causes of HIE, and
sometimes the exact cause cannot be
found. Some possible causes are:
• Too little oxygen supplied by the
placenta during labor
• A blockage in the baby’s umbilical cord
• A clot in the baby’s brain
• Shock or sudden blood loss
• Infection

What are the symptoms of HIE?
Symptoms of HIE depend on how low oxygen levels
dropped and for how long. Symptoms can include:
• Pale skin
• Weak or absent breathing
• Lethargy (low energy)
• Decrease in certain reflexes

• Weak muscles (“floppy”)
• Seizures
• Coma

How common is HIE?
In the US and other Western countries, HIE occurs in 1 to 3 out of every 1,000 births

Treating Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
How is HIE diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose HIE by observing the baby’s symptoms and
performing a physical exam. They will also run tests to see how
well the baby’s brain and heart are working

p.
Glossary
CT (or CAT) scan – painless
test that uses X-rays to create
a picture of the brain
EEG (electroencephalogram) –
test that measures electrical
activity in the brain
EKG or ECG (electrocardiogram) –
test that measures electrical
activity in the heart
Encephalopathy – brain injury
Hypothermia – decreased body
temperature
Hypoxic – not enough oxygen
Intravenous (IV) – through a vein
Ischemic – not enough blood flow
Mechanical ventilator – a
machine that helps your baby
breathe by moving air in and out
of the lungs
MRI – painless test that produces
an image of structures inside the
brain. MRI machines do not use
radiation
Ultrasound – painless test that
uses sound waves to create a
picture of the brain
NOTES:
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Signature:__________________________________________ Date: _________________ Time: ____________
Ask the health care team when
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there to help.
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What treatment will my baby receive?
The most common treatment for HIE is hypothermia (cooling)
of either the head or the whole body. During this treatment,
doctors decrease the baby’s temperature for a few days.
The lower temperature is thought to help limit the amount of
damage to the brain.
In addition, babies with HIE may need help breathing or may
need extra fluids to maintain enough blood flow to the brain.
The baby also may need medicine to control seizures.

What will happen next?
HIE is a serious and life-threatening condition. For babies
who survive, the long-term effects of HIE depend on the
amount of brain damage. It may take months or years before
the amount of damage is known. For that reason, all babies
who had HIE need to be seen by a doctor who specializes
in infant and child development. Be sure to keep all follow-up
appointments after you leave the hospital. If you have any
questions, ask the health care team. They are there to help

Glossary
CT (or CAT) scan – painless
test that uses X-rays to create
a picture of the brain
EEG (electroencephalogram)
test that measures electrical
activity in the brain
EKG or ECG (electrocardiogram)
test that measures electrical
activity in the heart
Encephalopathy – brain injury
Hypothermia – decreased body
temperature
Hypoxic – not enough oxygen
Intravenous (IV) – through a vein
Ischemic – not enough blood flow
Mechanical ventilator – a
machine that helps your baby
breathe by moving air in and out
of the lungs
MRI – painless test that produces
an image of structures inside the
brain. MRI machines do not use
radiation
Ultrasound – painless test that
uses sound waves to create a
picture of the brain

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