During pregnancy, the unborn child’s brain is unprotected from a wide range of dangers. Dangers include severe illness with the mother, placental or umbilical issues, or difficult delivery. When a newborn is deprived of air during birth, the lack of oxygen to the brain can produce a condition known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).
Once a newborn develops HIE, it starts to evolve over the next several hours. Lack of oxygen supply to the brain starts a range of other effects as the body attempts to repair itself. When HIE is mild, the body’s natural approach is effective. However, in moderate to severe cases, the body’s desperate efforts could cause further brain damage.
The damage caused to the brain is not immediate. An overflow of chemical reactions causes brain damage. However, a window of several hours is there before the damage is permanent. Therefore, it is theorized by researchers that it may be possible to block this chemical chain reaction. Blocking the chemical chain reaction can perhaps minimize permanent damage.
A new simple technique is giving injured babies a chance to live a healthy and normal life. Research suggests that mild hypothermia (cooling of the body) decreases the risk of brain damage in babies who suffer from HIE. Inducing hypothermia is achieved in two different ways. One method uses a fluid-filled blanked, and the other is to use a unique water-cooled cap. Both techniques are designed to decrease the temperature of the brain. Reducing the newborn’s temperature by 37-39 degrees Fahrenheit for 72 hours seems to shut down the majority of the damaging reaction. Additionally, its believed, the cooling of the baby slows the chemical reaction and allows the body to repair itself.
Birth injury/brain cooling statistics
- 1 in every 1,000 newborns suffers from birth asphyxia.
- 4 in every 1,000 newborns are born with some form of brain damage.
- 3 out of 5 newborns who suffer severe HIE will die.
- 1 in 5 newborns suffering from HIE will die during infancy. 1 in 4 that survive will have permanent neurological problems.
- Each year approximately 10,000 babies suffer from moderate to severe HIE.
- Studies report a greater than 25% reduction in the number of deaths or severe disability for those born with HIE with brain cooling.
Inducing hypothermia to newborns suffering from HIE has proven to be the only intervention that improves the chance of survival. Brain cooling is being used widely in neonatal units throughout the United States.
However, timing is vital. Within six hours of delivery, brain cooling must be initiated. Once the baby is born, the decision to start brain cooling is made by the doctor. The infant must have moderate brain damage, younger than six hours old, late pre-term (past 36 weeks), or full-term. Studies have shown approximately a 27% decline in disabilities and death.
Contact an Attorney
If your child has developed cerebral palsy or suffered a brain injury, damages could have been prevented or decreased with a brain cooling treatment. If brain cooling was not offered as a treatment, you might have a case of medical malpractice or negligence. We recommend you contact us immediately for a free case evaluation. CALL US ANYTIME (281) 475-4535 or fill out a consultation form here to start the process.