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.
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.