When a child is born, countless complications can arise. One of the most dangerous is birth asphyxia, which occurs when a baby’s brain does not get enough oxygen and nutrients before, during, or immediately after birth. Brain damage from perinatal asphyxia is called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and is considered a birth injury.
Fortunately, HIE can be treated immediately after birth with an innovative new process called “brain cooling.”
How Does It Work?
Commonly known as brain or baby cooling, therapeutic hypothermia must be administered within six hours to obtain results. When a baby develops HIE, medical professionals can reduce their chances of death and disability by keeping them at a temperature of 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit for 72 hours. To do this, caregivers place the infant on a waterproof blanket that contains cool circulating water or fit the baby with a specialized cooling cap.
Keeping the body at a lower temperature slows down the production of harmful substances in the brain. It also reduces the rate of brain cell death, giving damaged cells the chance to recover.
Is Brain Cooling Effective?
Therapeutic hypothermia can significantly lower the mortality rate for newborns with HIE. It has also been found to reduce the rate of severe disability, both by about 20%. A 2009 study of over 300 newborns found that 45% of cooled children had no brain abnormalities and had higher IQ scores later in life.
The treatment is simple, relatively inexpensive and, above all, effective.
Where Can Newborns Be Treated?
Brain cooling is only available at level III or IV Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU). In Kansas City, Children’s Mercy has a level IV NICU, and Saint Luke’s and Overland Park Regional Medical Center have level III NICUs. In many cases, newborns must be transported to the nearest level III or IV for treatment. It is crucial that this transfer happens quickly.
What if My Child Wasn’t Treated Properly?
Sometimes, HIE is not diagnosed quickly enough and treatment is delayed. Other times, therapeutic hypothermia is not considered as a treatment option. In both cases, and many others, your medical provider could be held liable for medical malpractice. The consequences of a preventable birth injury can change the life of your child and impact your family forever. At Bertram & Graf, L.L.C. our attorneys don’t want you to have to face those consequences alone. To find out if you have a case, call us at (888) 398-2277 and set up a free consultation today.