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Treating Birth Injuries with Brain Cooling

baby feet in crib

If your child suffers from blood loss, brain damage, or a lack of oxygen during birth, it might seem like all hope is lost. With cooling therapy, however, this damage can be at least partially reduced. Known as “brain cooling,” this effective treatment can reduce the risk of death and disability in infants who sustain birth injuries during labor or delivery.

What Is Brain Cooling?

Also called “therapeutic hypothermia,” brain cooling involves placing a newborn on a special mat or blanket that contains cool circulating water. Babies can also be outfitted with a special cap that serves the same purpose. Cooling technologies lower the child’s temperature to about 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 72 hours. During this time, the production of harmful substances in the brain is slowed, along with the rate of brain cell death. The treatment is inexpensive and available at level III and IV NICUs (neonatal intensive care units) across the United States.

When is Cooling Therapy Appropriate?

Cooling therapy can be used whenever infants develop severe oxygen deficiencies during the birthing process. These deficiencies, referred to as birth asphyxia or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), can arise from complications during birth and can have death rates of up to 50%.

Without brain cooling, even children who survive HIE frequently face permanent brain damage. Untreated HIE is also tied to cerebral palsy, cognitive impairment, and sensory losses like blindness.

Therapeutic hypothermia has been found to reduce the risk of death by nearly 16% and severe disability by about 19%, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

What If My Baby Did Not Receive Brain Cooling?

To be effective, brain cooling should be administered within 6 hours of birth. If your doctor failed to consider this treatment or transfer your child to an appropriate NICU after an instance of birth asphyxia, you may be entitled to damages.

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