Cooling Therapy Can Help Reduce the Effects of a Brain Injury

Cooling Therapy Can Help Reduce the Effects of a Brain Injury

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) – the result of oxygen deprivation and blood flow to an infant’s brain at or near birth - is a serious birth trauma that occurs in an estimated 2.8 cases per 1,000 live births. 10-15% of infants die as a result, and 25-30% of the survivors will have permanent neurological damages such as Erb’s palsy, brain damage, and cerebral palsy. Studies show that inducing mild hypothermia (90-95 Fahrenheit) in infants born who suffer hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy in the first hours after an ischemic event can decrease the risk and severity of neurological injuries.

HIEs may be the result of several different factors including maternal health, cord prelapse, forceps delivery, and delays in delivery. In certain situations, this devastating birth injury may be the result of medical malpractice. In general, a damaging event causes the initial brain trauma, however the injury to an infant’s brain continues for a period of time. After the initial damage from oxygen depletion, a second phase of cellular damage occurs about 6-24 hours later as the oxygen flow returns. The rush of oxygen back to the brain may be toxic and cause additional damage to an infant’s brain cells. This second phase of damage may continue for another 24-48 hours, then begins to resolve The effects of an hypoxic ischemic injury often show up at 1 to 4 years later. The use of therapeutic hypothermia or cooling therapy may be able to halt or reduce the damage to an infant’s brain.

Cooling therapy works by cooling a baby’s brain just a few degrees below normal body temperature immediately within a few hours after birth, as soon as possible after the oxygen deprivation occurs. The newborn’s body will be cooled for anywhere from a few hours to a few of days. With core body temperature lowered, the brain’s need for oxygen slows various processes that otherwise result in damage to brain cells.

While not all babies are helped, studies show that the incidence of death neuro-developmental disability for those with moderate to severe brain injuries was significantly reduced from 62% to 44% by the cooling. For those families whose child has been helped by this therapy, the benefit is incalculable.

The failure to provide cooling therapy to infants born with a birth injury such as HIE may be considered medical malpractice. For more information, please contact the experienced California birth injury lawyers at Bostwick Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.


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