Understanding Brain Cooling and Birth Asphyxia

Perhaps the most serious injuries that arise during a traumatic birth are those that affect the brain. Most injuries that are purely physical are obviously damaging, but there are more and more options to treat and account for injuries of a purely physical nature. On the other hand, harm that affects and infant brain is often incredibly debilitating affecting every area of their lives and influencing their long-term capabilities.

Oxygen Deprivation at Birth
Most birth injuries affecting the brain stem from asphyxia–when the brain is deprived of oxygen for an extended period of time. Many birth injury lawsuits have been filed in just these cases, because the prolonged oxygen deprivation is often caused by failure on the part of medical teams to act in a timely manner or to properly pick up on signs of fetal distress. Medical malpractice is not implicated every time that a child suffers a birth injury affecting the brain, but in far too many cases it is actually preventable.

Fortunately, medical experts have been working on different ways to minimize the harm caused by oxygen deprivation. One of the most promising (and now somewhat standard) procedures involves “brain cooling.” A recent article in Medical Express touched on how the cooling works to minimize long-term harm to infants following birth asphyxia.

Pointing to a New England Journal of Medicine study, the article explains how in high-income countries (like the United States), brain cooling is standard procedure. It involves lowering the infants overall body temperature (using water, ice, or cooling blankets) for an extended period of time. This can last for a few days. The goal is that the “cascading” effect of the brain damage can be stalled by cooling the organ. Different examinations of the effect of this cooling have found that there is a clear decrease in mortality rates for infants who are treated by this cooling method after the birth injury.

The most recent research into the effects on infants in lower income countries is less clear. It is not yet possible to determine if brain cooling improves long-term outcomes. This might seem odd. What would the difference be between infant outcomes depending on where they live? Shouldn’t the brain react the same way to a treatment regardless of the average income of the country where the child is born?

The answer is that it is a mistake to conclude that the mixed results with regard to low income countries somehow means that brain cooling doesn’t work. Instead, it is a product of the fact that the cooling is just one part of a complex series of treatments that infants need to survive after these complex births. They may be far less likely to receive that other care in lower income countries.

In other words, for those in Chicago and throughout Illinois, brain cooling remains an important medical tool if your infant suffers oxygen deprivation during birth. Though it is important to remember that the cooling is often not a permanent cure that wards off any ill effects. Many children will still suffer some long-term harm and need specialized care to account for possible detrimental effects. In those cases, when the deprivation may have been aggravated by inadequate medical care, then a birth injury lawsuit may be appropriate.

See Other Blog Posts:

The Value of Childbirth Education Classes

Call for Support for Medical Errors Documentary

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