Autism Caused by Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social deficits (social communication and social interaction) and restricted repetitive patterns of behavior, interests and activities. Intellectual disability and seizures are also common in children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism spectrum disorder encompasses a number of disorders that were previously referred to as autistic disorder/autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, and Asperger disorder/Asperger syndrome.

Cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The cause and development of autism spectrum disorder is not completely understood by the medical community. There seems to be a general consensus that genetic factors can cause autism spectrum disorder.  Some children have a specific genetic disorder that is associated with autism spectrum disorder. However, studies have indicated that other factors including toxic exposures, perinatal insults (events immediately before or after birth that cause damage), and prenatal infections are responsible for some cases of autism spectrum disorder.

In particular, it has been found that children exposed to perinatal hypoxic-ischemic conditions are at increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorder. There may be a correlation between autism spectrum disorder and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy refers to a brain injury in which brain cells are damaged as a result of a lack of oxygen (hypoxia) or reduced blood flow (ischemia). This type of injury can occur during childbirth. While hypoxic and ischemic injuries are relatively rare, when they happen, they can cause permanent brain damage and even death. Children who suffer from HIE and survive may develop cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, epilepsy, developmental delay and/or autism spectrum disorder.

Here is an infographic describing HIE:


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Contact an Experienced Birth Injury Lawyer

If your child exhibits behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorder and has been diagnosed with a medical condition that could cause permanent disability or developmental delay, please call us for a free consultation with an experienced BILA lawyer. We will review the circumstances of your child’s birth and advise you whether or not your baby’s injury may have been avoided with appropriate medical care, and whether or not your child is entitled to compensation for his or her injuries.