Brain Cooling and Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy

Brain cooling is a method used by physicians to help reduce brain damage in infants afflicted with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which is also known as intrapartum asphyxia. It can reduce the risk of contracting cerebral palsy, and death.

During the period of gestation, if a newborn becomes asphyxiated prior to or at the time of birth, the deficiency of oxygen to the brain can lead to the development of HIE. While hypoxia is a condition marked by a diminished amount of oxygen, ischemia means a reduced amount of blood perfusing the brain, and encephalopathy refers to any dysfunction of the brain. As HIE occurs over a period of many hours, the lack of sufficient oxygen and blood flow to the brain prompts the brain to begin other actions while the body tries to heal itself. This method usually has favorable results if it is a mild case of HIE, but in moderate or serious cases, the effort to restore itself can bring about more brain damage.

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Baby boy who suffered Erb’s Palsy



Child that suffered nerve injury



Baby girl who suffered Erb’s Palsy



Child birth with nerve damage



Brain Cooling Errors Can Cause Serious Damage

These problems include cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, developmental delays, mental retardation, problems with hearing and vision, and can be fatal. The physician must be very cautious in attempting to resuscitate the newborn as the abrupt flow of oxygen and blood to the brain can bring about hazardous chemical reactions, which could cause more brain damage.

The procedure called brain cooling can help infants afflicted with HIE. Brain cooling involves fitting the newborn with a blanket filled with fluid, or a cap cooled with water, that will lower the baby’s brain temperature by three to four degrees Celsius for 72 hours following birth. Permanent brain damage generally does not happen for many hours after the brain is without a sufficient amount of oxygen. The physician then has an opportunity to delay the perilous chemical reactions so that the cells in the brain are able to repair the damage without being under an excessive amount of stress.

However, doctors must act quickly in discovering whether the infant is the correct patient for brain cooling. The baby must have suffered moderate brain damage, have been in gestation for a period of time in excess of six weeks, and is required to be less than six hours old.

If your baby suffered severe birth injuries due to the negligence of a physician, you should consult the medical malpractice attorneys at Chalik & Chalik.

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