Brain Cooling for Newborns with Brain Damage from HIE

by Bruce Fagel on Feb. 25, 2013

Accident & Injury Medical Malpractice Accident & Injury  Products Liability Accident & Injury  Wrongful Death 

Summary: Brain cooling is a procedure that helps prevent newborn babies with HIE from getting permanent brain damage.

During pregnancy, an infant’s brain is vulnerable to a wide range of threats.  When a newborn baby is asphyxiated which means a lack of oxygen to brain of the baby, before or during birth, a condition called HIE – hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy may occur.   As HIE continues over several hours, the lack of oxygen and blood supply to the brain of the infant causes a series of events to begin as the body attempts to repair the problem.  If the HIE is mild, there shouldn’t be a problem; however, if the HIE is more severe, the body may end up causing damage to the brain as it attempts to repair itself.

HIE takes several hours before the damage is permanent.  If the baby’s body temperature is slightly cooled, creating a mild hypothermia, there is a chance the baby can live a normal and healthy life.  By giving the baby a cool fluid filled blanket or a water cooled cap, the baby’s temperature can drop by 3 to 4 degrees celcius for 72 hours after birth.  This helps the baby’s body slow down dangerous reactions that would normally create additional brain damage under these conditions.  Creating a brain hypothermia by reducing the baby’s temperature to 33 degrees celcius for 72 hours after birth appears to be the only medical treatment for a baby who was asphyxiated at birth.  After 72 hours, the baby is slowly warmed back up to normal body temperature for the next 6 hours.

In order for the brain cooling method to be successful, babies who have experienced HIE must have the brain cooling procedure within 6 hours of birth.  The infant must have sustained brain damage and the mother must have carried the baby beyond 36 weeks during the pregnancy.  With so many elements required and such a short window of opportunity, it is critical that doctors are careful and understand how to properly apply this procedure.  Failure to properly implement this procedure could result in additional brain injuries or even death to the baby.  Brain cooling may also be referred to as therapeutic hypothermia or neural rescue.

For more information about brain cooling and other birth injuries, visit brain cooling.

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