Full Body Hypothermia Combats Infant Brain Injury

According to recent news from the University of California, some really “Cool Babies” are heating up the hospitals. Doctors are using a new therapy called “Cool Babies” at UC Davis to combat long-term neurological damage caused by birth asphyxia.

Birth Asphyxia

Lack of Oxygen Leads to Major Problems

Birth asphyxia, also known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), may occur when a baby’s oxygen supply slows or stops during the birthing process. This could be the result of injury, difficult labor or mistakes made by medical personnel. The results are often mental or physical disabilities, delayed development, seizures and cerebral palsy. Unfortunately, many instances of HIE result in death.

According to Ian Griffin, the neonatologist who founded and directs the program, there are two phases of damage to the brain that occur during HIE. The first phase happens immediately as brain cells begin to die. The second phase occurs between six and twelve hours after HIE when injured cells release amino and fatty acids.

Hypothermia Helps

The goal of Cool Babies is to prevent or lessen the effect of the second phase of damage. With the Cool Babies program, once an infant is determined to have suffered HIE, he or she is cooled to 92.3 degrees Fahrenheit using a mattress filled with circulating water. The newborn is kept at the cooler temperature for 72 hours and then gradually warmed up to a natural temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to a 2005 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 208 infants participated in the initial trial after showing symptoms of HIE. Those in the control group were treated per Neonatal Intensive Care Unit standards and those in the experimental group were cooled for 72 hours. Infants from both groups were evaluated at 18 to 22 months old for growth, neurological conditions, motor functions, hearing and vision.

In the control group, 64 percent either died or suffered from severe disability. In the hypothermic group, only 44 percent suffered the same results. The rates of blindness and hearing impairment were also less, and the experimental group had a 19 percent rate of cerebral palsy while the control group had 30 percent.

Meet Owen, a Cool Kid

According to the University of California, Owen Palmquist was the first baby treated with the Cool Baby therapy at UC Davis. Owen is now two and a half years old and progressing well. When he was first born, Owen had abnormal brain waves and no signs of movement. Now, he is only about six months delayed developmentally, has started speaking in full sentences and is attending preschool.

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The joy of a newborn can turn to terror when birthing injuries occur. If you are a loved one has been affected by birth asphyxiation that resulted in cerebral palsy, blindness or death that may have been caused by a medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation. Time to file a claim is limited; contact our caring attorneys today to set up your free consultation.

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