Oxygen Deprivation at Birth: Cooling Blankets Becoming Standard Treatment

Oxygen deprivation during the birth process can result in serious injuries to the newborn. Studies have found that oxygen deprivation can result in death rates as high as 60%, and of those newborns that survive many sustain brain damage that often results in cerebral palsy, cognitive impairments or hearing and vision loss.

While many newborns that suffer from insufficient oxygen during birth may not experience detectable brain damage they remain at a higher risk for learning disabilities, language delays and memory deficit.

Fortunately, The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network has discovered a method that has been shown to reduce the rate of death and disability caused by insufficient oxygen and decreased blood flow to the newborn‘s brain at birth. This new procedure involves reducing the “whole body temperature” of newborns with brain injuries during the hours immediately after birth.

To do this, specially designed cooling blankets are used to lower the whole body temperature of the newborns to 92.3 degrees Fahrenheit for 72 hours immediately after birth. By providing this whole-body cooling immediately after birth the effects of oxygen deprivation and lack of blood flow are slowed down. This reduces the detrimental effects that usually result from oxygen deprivation. Initial studies found that this cooling process significantly lowered the risk of death and disability by more than 15 percent.

Researchers have learned that brain injuries resulting from insufficient oxygen and blood flow during birth generally occur in two phases. The first phase happens during the birth process when the baby is deprived of sufficient oxygen due to inadequate blood flow supplying oxygen to the baby‘s brain. The second phase happens in the hours just following birth and is due to a secondary energy failure. When the brain and body are cooled, less energy is needed for the brain to function and this minimizes the brain injury.

In order for this to be effective the cooling blanket must be used within the first six hours after birth. The cooling blankets induce hypothermia and minimize the damage. In some cases this prevents the baby from experiencing the second phase of brain injury. It is hoped that this new treatment will significantly decrease the damages caused by oxygen deprivation.

Inducing whole body hyperthermia is now becoming the standardized treatment for oxygen deprivation in brain injured newborns. Neonatal departments around the world are adopting this cooling technique to reduce the risk of death and disability among infants showing signs of brain injury indicating oxygen deficiency.

Researcher have also noted that this hypothermia therapy is useful for treating adult patients who experience oxygen deprivation and is being used to treat adults that have suffered from of heart attacks, strokes, spinal cord injuries and other forms of trauma that cause injury to the brain due to oxygen deprivation.

Medical malpractice claims require that the medical provider fell below the standard of care in the medical profession. Once standard practices are in place, failure to adopt those practices may by definition suggest the medical provider fell below the standard of care. If your baby has suffered oxygen deprivation and resulting brain injury or cerebral palsy, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to determine if you have a possible medical malpractice claim.

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Related Reading:
Cerebral Palsy Birth Injuries: Devastating, Costly and Sometimes Avoidable!
Cesarean Sections: An Essential Tool in Prevention of Cerebral Palsy
New Techniques to Fight Cerebral Palsy in the Womb

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