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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 – Slower Heart Rate

Every organ in a baby’s body, including the kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, and brain, can suffer damage when it does not get the required amount of oxygen and blood.

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Slow Heart Rate and HIE

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy is a term for oxygen deprivation which can result in brain damage. One particular symptom of HIE is a slower pulse. Other symptoms include:

Elk & Elk
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Weak reflexes
  • Amniotic fluid stained with meconium
  • Weak or no breathing
  • Pale or bluish skin tone
  • Seizures
  • Excess acid in the blood

The pulse is by far one of the most important elements of a baby’s health. When a mother goes to her doctor’s appointment, the first thing the nursing staff does is take the baby’s blood pressure. The blood pressure number is something that will give a quick picture of what is going on with the infant’s health. If the rate is slow, HIE may be implicated.

Why Would an Infant Need Cooling Therapy?

The overall effects of HIE range from mild to moderate, and even severe.

While mild cases of HIE may cause little to no long-lasting issues, moderate to severe HIE can lead to immediate long-term problems.

One immediate problem stemming from HIE is seizures. Later issues may include difficulty thinking, learning, walking, speaking, and controlling other body movements. Some children tend to develop cerebral palsy, a kind of paralysis that makes it hard for them to control the muscles.

Slower Heart Rate During Treatment

Once the baby has endured three days of cooling and has received medication to help he or she be more comfortable, the infant will slowly be re-warmed to a normal body temperature. While medical staff looks after the infant, they monitor his or her pulse, temperature, and breathing patterns. They will also continuously check the baby’s brain activity using an electroencephalogram (EEG) as well as a cerebral function monitor (CFM). Also, probes are placed on the baby’s scalp to help measure the brain’s electrical activity. The staff closely monitor for signs of seizures too, using a high-tech video camera.

During the cooling treatment, blood tests are done to evaluate all other aspects of the infant’s health such as metabolic issues and infections.

Lowering core temperature tends to result in a lower heart rate. In infants undergoing cooling therapy, the pulse can drop by 14 to 45 b.p.m, but will return to normal on rewarming.

During the treatment, it is normal for a baby to have a slower breathing and pulse and to appear sleepy and quiet. He or she will be given nutrition through intravenous therapy and, if it is safe, parents are still able to touch their baby during the therapy period.

While a slower heart rate is both an indicator of HIE and a risk with cooling therapy, the pulse tends to return to normal during the re-warming process.