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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

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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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Lowering the Effects of Brain Injury for HIE

One of the leading causes of death in newborn infants is known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). The condition occurs when a newborn baby suffers a shortage of blood supply or oxygen to the brain at the time of birth, which results in brain injury.

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Brain Damage in Newborn Babies

The World Health Organization advocates that therapeutic cooling of newborn babies with moderate to severe HIE reduces the risk of death as well as a long-term neurological disability by the time the baby reaches 18 months of age.

A lack of oxygen in the baby’s brain at the time of birth can result in brain damage. Certain drugs may be administered to speed up labor, inducing hypoxia, too. Further, overly forceful forceps deliveries are known to result in damage to a baby’s brain. It is important that a baby displaying signs of HIE be treated as quickly as possible to lower the damage effects.

How Does Cooling Therapy Lower the Effects of Brain Injury for HIE?

Elk & Elk

The treatment works within a therapeutic window that occurs once a newborn suffers a shortage of oxygen. By lowering the core body temperature via the hypothermia technique, a baby’s brain temperature can be reduced, and doctors can alter the chemical processes that usually result in damage. The baby is cooled with a special blanket or purpose-made cap. After approximately three days of cooling therapy, the baby’s temperature is gradually warmed.

The Long-Term Benefits of Cooling Therapy for Newborns

There are several long-term benefits to therapeutic hypothermia for newborns. For example, children who under treatment as infants are more likely to have a higher survival rate of 6 – 7 years old. What’s more, infants who receive the treatment are less likely to develop significant developmental issues, such as:

  • Loss of vision
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Loss of hearing

Also, it has been found that the likelihood of injury from HIE declines in babies who receive therapeutic hypothermia treatment.

Prior to the advancements in cooling therapies, doctors were unable to treat HIE, and many babies died or suffered a brain injury. Hence, it is reassuring to see the benefits of the therapy which, to date, have been widely documented, especially at 18 months and two years of age, as the benefits tend to be more apparent as children grow.

More About Cooling Therapy in Newborns

If a mother experiences difficulty during pregnancy, it is essential to discuss the possibility of therapeutic hypothermia with the physician. Of course, not all difficult pregnancies are going to result in a baby’s brain damage, but, it is a good idea to be prepared for the instance and understand how the treatment works, along with its risks and complications, and long-term outlook.

At the moment, there is no other kind of effective treatment for significant newborn brain damage, and there are still more studies needed before therapeutic hypothermia treatment can become a standardized option.