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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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Therapeutic Hypothermia - Whole Body Cooling

Infants who are oxygen deprived before, during or immediately following birth are likely to suffer from a serious birth injury, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, HIE. Infants with HIE may be developmentally delayed or may suffer more serious neurological problems including cerebral palsy.

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. Treatments for HIE typically include medications to control seizures which may occur in some children. Whole body cooling is one of the treatments available for newborns diagnosed with HIE.

Neonatal Therapeutic Hypothermia

Elk & Elk

There are two main types of neonatal cooling methods. These include whole body and head cooling. The whole body method reduces the temperature of the entire body at once while head cooling reduces the temperature only through the head. Both methods are considered to provide positive effects to the infant. The infant’s temperature is lowered for a period of up to 72 hours.

Whole body cooling utilizes a cooling blanket or mat which is continually cooled using water. Water flows through the chambers of the mat which keeps the temperature at a constant level. The infant is placed directly on the blanket for the duration of treatment. Infants are sedated during cooling treatment to keep them comfortable. Additional medications are also often provided such as those to control seizures and to keep blood pressure at the proper level.

Babies are monitored while they are being treated. Their brain activity may also be monitored or checked using an EEG, electroencephalogram. Electrodes are attached to the infant’s head to track and record brain function. This helps diagnose and monitor seizures and overall cerebral function. Therapeutic hypothermia is administered at a qualified Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, NICU.

The NICU provides complete round-the-clock monitoring for infants who are receiving whole body cooling therapy. Infants are typically sedated to ensure their comfort. During treatment, parents may visit but are usually not allowed to pick up their infant since this will cause changes to the core temperature. Babies receive intravenous hydration and nutrition throughout the process. After treatment is complete, the infant is slowly warmed to normal temperature, and his or her condition will be reassessed.

What to Expect from Cooling Therapy

Neonatal therapeutic hypothermia is administered to children as a way to prevent further brain damage from occurring. It may be difficult to know whether cooling therapy made a difference for your child or not. The results of reducing an infant’s core temperature at birth may not be known for months or years. As the child begins to grow and develop his level of brain damage will become more apparent. In most cases, therapeutic hypothermia will improve a child’s mortality rate and will provide an overall improvement in function over his lifetime.

Core body temperature reduction is considered to be a very good option for many children with HIE. There are few potential side effects. The most common side effect is a slowed heart rate, which will usually normalize after treatment is completed. The possible benefits are great because the treatment may keep brain damage to a minimum. Children who have been given hypothermia treatments or who are diagnosed with HIE should receive ongoing evaluation and treatment after leaving the hospital. Your doctor should discuss the option of therapeutic hypothermia with you immediately when your infant is born with signs of oxygen deficiency.