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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Cooling Therapy – Lowering the Chance of Death from HIE

According to studies of babies with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) – a condition where the brain fails to get enough oxygen – babies who received the cooling therapy treatment were more likely to survive to the age of 7 than those who did not receive it.

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Further, it has been found that the therapy does not increase the risk of harm later in life and babies who undergo cooling therapy are no more likely to have physical disabilities or lower IQ scores in their earlier years. Such studies support findings of earlier research that has shown that cooling treatment can decrease death occurrences in infants who have HIE.

HIE Is a Life-Threatening Condition

Unfortunately, some babies fail to get sufficient oxygen at delivery or a few hours just before. There are a wide variety of causes for the lack of oxygen, including compression of the umbilical cord and rupture of the uterus. Sadly, as many as one in 1,000 births are affected by the condition, and in extreme cases, the death rate is about 50 percent.

The Benefits of Cooling Treatment

Elk & Elk

The hypothermia method involves placing a newborn baby on a plastic blanket that has cool water circulating through it. The water works to reduce the baby’s core temperature to as low as 33.5 degrees Celsius (a baby’s normal body temperature is 37 C). The reduction in body temperature is then sustained for approximately three days and then returned to a normal temperature.

The treatment works to slow or even stop the process that occurs when the brain lacks oxygen, such as cell death and brain swelling, therefore preventing brain injury and even death from HIE.

Are There Risks Associated with Cooling Therapy in Newborns?

Up to now, research has indicated that there are more benefits than risks involved with this kind of therapy for newborn babies. But, it is important to realize that there may be some risk factors involved. For example, some studies, according to the WHO Reproductive Health Library, show a slight increase in a baby’s baseline heart rate when undergoing treatment, as well as the need for blood pressure support. There are also risks associated with abnormal lung function, bleeding, skin injuries, and salt levels.

Furthermore, the cooling treatment does not seem to help newborns with seizures during the treatment, which is common in babies experiencing oxygen deprivation. There is also the risk of blood clotting, but this is usually if the baby was already experiencing clotting prior to the start of treatment.

What Do the Experts Say?

While there do not yet seem to be definite answers on how well cooling treatment works on newborns with brain injuries, clinical trials have proven promising, and there are many experts who feel that it ought to become a standard form of treatment for babies who are oxygen deprived. The therapy seems to be a hopeful breakthrough in lowering the chance of death from HIE.