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

Learn More

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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What is Therapeutic Hypothermia or Cooling Therapy?

Therapeutic hypothermia is also known as targeted temperature management or cooling therapy. Cooling therapy is a method of treatment that brings the body’s temperature down to assist in healing. It is used primarily with infants who suffer from brain injuries at birth, such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, HIE. It has also been found to be helpful in some cases of adult cardiac arrest. Neonatal cooling therapy has been found to provide some long-term improvement to children who have severe neurological disabilities due to lack of oxygen before, during or shortly after birth. It also reduces the risk of death in some infants with HIE.

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Treatment Details

Therapeutic hypothermia for infants is done either through whole body or head cooling. The treatment involves the use of a water-cooled blanket or cap that is designed to lower the body temperature of the infant. The baby is generally sedated during this time period and may also be provided with other medications such as those to prevent seizures. Treatment must begin no later than 6 hours after birth and continues for a 72 hour period. During therapy, the infant is monitored, and tests continue to help determine brain activity.

Whole body cooling utilizes a blanket to bring the core temperature down. The blanket is a pad that is kept at a specific temperature through the use of water flow. The baby is usually placed directly on the pad and is monitored throughout the process to ensure that the body is evenly kept at the correct temperature. The newborn is intravenously fed throughout this time period and the condition is closely watched. Additionally, EEG monitoring of the baby’s brain may be done during this period.

Head cooling is similar to whole body cooling but utilizes a different method. With head cooling the infant is fitted with a specially designed cool cap that fits over his or her head. The cap is cooled with water and is kept at a specific temperature per doctor’s instructions. The cap effectively cools the body and the brain and lowers the body temperature while in use. As with the body blanket, the cap must remain in use for a full 72 hour period. The cool cap is fitted with EEG monitors so that the baby’s brain activity can be reviewed.

Benefits of Therapeutic Hypothermia

There may be several benefits to cooling therapy. The full extent of the benefits may not be immediately known. Generally, the infant is more likely to suffer less severe damage and have a more favorable outcome after 18 months than those who suffered similar injuries but did not have this treatment. The morbidity rate is also likely to be lower in those who received treatment over those who did not. However, there is still much to know about this therapy. What is known is that cooling treatment is more likely to be of benefit and there are no known serious side effects of having the treatment. Therefore, many doctors and parents prefer to have the treatments done if at all possible. Babies must be eligible to have the treatment. Those who are gravely ill are among those that generally would not be able to receive therapeutic hypothermia treatments.

What is Therapeutic Hypothermia or Cooling Therapy?
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