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Neonatal Cooling May Help Oxygen Deprived Newborns

The birth of a baby is usually a joyful time for families, unless a severe birth injury causes harm to the newborn. One of the most common types of birth injuries is called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). This is a reduced flow of oxygen to the baby’s brain during the birth process and is also a type of birth asphyxia. HIE may cause brain injuries that range from minor to severe. There are many factors that contribute to how a child with HIE will develop. Recent information indicates that reducing the body temperature immediately after the occurrence of a serious brain injury has a major positive impact on recovery. The baby’s brain has a much better chance of improvement when the body is cooled to slow metabolism.

Neonatal Cooling
A medical treatment for HIE, neonatal cooling requires the newborn to spend time at a lowered temperature for the immediate hours and days following birth. The cooling treatment reduces the body’s temperature and slows the metabolism. This gives the body a much better chance of recovering and is particularly important for brain recovery. Decreasing the body temperature has been shown to reduce the severity and extent of a brain injury in some cases. The body may be able to repair the damage thus reducing the extent of the damage done by lack of oxygen.

How Neonatal Cooling Works
Neonatal cooling utilizes a specially designed cooling blanket. The blanket is filled with water that is lowered to 92 degrees, the temperature deemed ideal for this procedure. The blanket is wrapped around the infant while in the neonatal unit. The device has monitoring features that allow medical staff to safely control the process. The cooling process typically requires a three-day treatment for maximum effectiveness. During that time, other treatments may also be provided. The baby may require seizure medication and may need the blood pressure regulated through the use of IV drugs. During this time the baby may undergo various testing such as an MRI and EEG to check for brain activity.

When Neonatal Cooling Was Not Provided
When a baby experiences oxygen deprivation during birth the hospital and medical team must do everything possible to properly treat the infant. Treatment should include neonatal cooling. If cooling was not done, it may mean that the doctors or hospital were negligent. Failure to provide this treatment could mean lifelong reduced brain function. This treatment may not have been given for a number of reasons. The hospital may not be equipped with the proper cooling equipment necessary, the staff may not be adequately trained, or the baby may not have been correctly diagnosed at the time of birth.

Regardless of the reason, failure to provide neonatal cooling when it should have been used could have a significant negative impact on the child’s brain function now and in the future. Misdiagnosis or failure properly treat a serious birth injury may be medical malpractice. If your baby suffered a birth injury that was not properly diagnosed or treated, contact the experienced attorneys at Levin & Perconti for a consultation.

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