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“Chilling” of Birth Injury Victims Grows in Popularity

Every day more and more attention is being brought to a relatively new, but encouraging treatment option to help stymie some of the more damaging birth injuries. Our Illinois birth injury lawyers have discussed this process in previous blog posts. The new technique involves “cooling” the body of an infant who may have been deprived of oxygen in order to limit the damage that the deprivation causes.

As a story this week from The Gazette noted, total body cooling following traumatic births is becoming routine in many areas. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers were fascinated to learn that the science behind the cooling technique was uncovered, in part, by case studies of unique situations where children suffered little harm following accidents that should have been severe. For example, in one case a thirteen month old toddler wandered out of her house in the middle of winter. She eventually fell face down, hit her head hard of the ground and was knocked unconscious. Considering the weather, it’s a miracle that she didn’t freeze to death. When she was found she had no pulse. However, a few hours later the girl was brought back with the only injury being frostbite. This was miraculous, considering she had been without oxygen for a prolonged period of time. The oxygen deprivation, at the very least, would have been expected to leave her with permanent brain damage.

Doctors realized that the cooling she experienced in the snow actually helped to limit damage that she otherwise might have experienced. Case studies like that one coincided with research which had already suggested the hypothermia limited brain damage in animals.

Now those cooling techniques are being used to help our most vulnerable-infants who have been hurt by a birth injury. The basic idea behind the treatment is the lowering of the child’s body temperature by four degrees immediately following birth. This is accomplished by stripping the child out of clothing and having them lie on a mattress filled with ice water. The cooling is usually conducted over three days. Doctors explain that the cooling is best for those with moderate to severe brain injuries at birth. The cooling essentially “buys time” so that the baby’s brain is allowed to heal on its own.

Of course, the use of cooling to save lives and prevent injury is still in its relative infancy. Several different studies are still underway to pinpoint more clearly how and how well the treatment works. However, though research is still underway, the techniques are already in use in many areas and being credited with saving lives and preventing disability.

For example, the Gazette shared the story of a baby born via a planned C-section. The child was born limp and was not breathing. It wasn’t until later that it was discovered that the child had meningitis. However, before even knowing exactly what the cause, the medical care providers acted quickly to being the cooling process. The child was transferred to a different hospital that specialized in the treatment. The baby’s temperature was dropped four degrees, and the child ultimately survived with no apparent long-term complications.

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