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What neuroradiologists look for to identify hypoxic-ischemic brain injury

A brain MRI scan is the go-to radiology study

When there’s a suspicion or confirmation that a newborn infant has a brain injury, it’s common for a neonatologist or physician to order an MRI scan of the brain. This is the diagnostic radiology study of choice for determining the basic cause and timing of the serious brain injury.

One devastating type of newborn brain injury is hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).

HIE is the description for a medical condition that occurs when the brain doesn’t get sufficient oxygen and blood flow. This causes the permanent death of brain cells.

Medical research suggests that HEI occurs in around 1 to 6 out of every 1,000 live full-term births in the United States. Other research has found that the incidence is higher for pre-term live births, at around 5 to 9 out of every 1,000.

In general, most neonatologists and pediatric neurologists recommend a brain MRI at around two to four days of age when HIE is suspected. This is felt to be the amount of time for the injuries to manifest themselves and become visible on an MRI.

When we investigate potential birth injury medical malpractice cases, we invariably retain a neuroradiology expert to review any brain imaging, such as MRI scans, CT scans, and head ultrasounds. Neuroradiologists are physicians with specialty training in interpreting radiology images of the head and brain.

Diagnostic radiology studies are helpful in determining the cause of brain injuries because the different parts of the brain don’t uniformly respond to low oxygen levels. In fact, when looking for hypoxic-ischemic brain injury, neuroradiologists look for one of two classic patterns on a brain MRI:

• A watershed distribution. In brain geography, the watershed region involves the intravascular boundary-zone white matter and can extend into the cortical gray matter if the HIE is severe.

• A basal ganglia distribution. This region of the brain includes the hippocampus on both hemispheres, the deep gray nuclei, perirolandic cortex, and additional areas of the cortex when the HIE is severe.

If you or your child has suffered a hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in Texas, then contact a top-rated experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.


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