Oxygen deprivation in newborns is one of the most damaging birth injuries, because of the permanent long-term physical and mental costs for the child. Cerebral palsy is caused by brain issues like oxygen deprivation which kill brain cells and otherwise permanently damage the child’s nerve system, at the moment that they are born. All medical advances which might help limit those injuries will go a long way to improving the lives of thousands of youngsters.
The Illinois birth injury attorneys at our firm know that one of the most encouraging advances in this area involve lowering an infant’s body temperature immediately after the oxygen deprivation. The better this technique is understood and implemented the more newborns might be spared the lifelong consequences of these injuries.
Daily RX published a story this week that discussed the treatment and the growing optimism about its potential. Many community members might understandably be confused about how this therapy works. Referred to as “hypothermia treatment,” the process usually involves icing the newborn down to lower their overall body temperature to a set point. Recent studies into the effectiveness of the option show that the treatment leads to higher survival rates for newborns whose brains are deprived of oxygen. The latest study, recently published by a group of 27 researchers, was a follow-up to earlier efforts. It was published in the May edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The Underlying Problem
Authors of the hypothermia study noted that oxygen-deprivation at birth can be caused by any number of factors. One of the most common is blood loss. Referred to as “birth asphyxia,” more than half of all infants who experience it do not survive. Hypothermia treatment seeks to lower that death rate. Those that do survive often experience very serious health complications, frequently suffering from blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, or other cognitive problems.
How it Works
Our Chicago birth injury lawyers are encouraged by the potential for hypothermia therapy to reduce the harm experienced by infants with oxygen problems at birth. The treatment usually involves circulating cold water over the child-often via a waterproof blanket. The body temperature is usually brought down to about 91.4 degrees, and it is kept there for about three days.
The latest research studied over 200 infants born with asphyxia. Half of the groups received the hypothermia treatment within six hours of their birth while the other half received routine care. The long-term results were then compared to get an idea of whether or not the treatment provide useful.
By the time the children were 6 or 7 years old, the differences were clear. At that point, about 44% of the group who received routine care has died. Only 28% of the hypothermia group passed away. In addition, the children who received hypothermia treatment were a bit less likely to have a severe disability at that age.
Summarizing, one research explained that “it is reassuring to see that the benefits of this practice […] are apparent as these children grow.”
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