What causes hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and how is it characterized?

Updated: Jul 18, 2018
  • Author: Santina A Zanelli, MD; Chief Editor: Dharmendra J Nimavat, MD, FAAP  more...
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Answer

Perinatal asphyxia, more appropriately known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), is characterized by clinical and laboratory evidence of acute or subacute brain injury due to asphyxia. The primary causes of this condition are systemic hypoxemia and/or reduced cerebral blood flow (CBF) (see the image below). Birth asphyxia causes 840,000 or 23% of all neonatal deaths worldwide. [1, 2, 3]

Fetal response to asphyxia illustrating the initia Fetal response to asphyxia illustrating the initial redistribution of blood flow to vital organs. With prolonged asphyxial insult and failure of compensatory mechanisms, cerebral blood flow falls, leading to ischemic brain injury.

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