Cooling treatment shows promise in reduction of cerebral palsy

The deprivation of oxygen to a baby during delivery can result in an injury to the baby. When a child does not receive a high enough level of oxygen during delivery, sometimes referred to as asphyxia, brain cells can die resulting in permanent damage. The severity of the injury will vary depending on many factors including how long the baby went without oxygen. Babies may be diagnosed with cerebral palsy or developmental delays. In the most tragic cases, the baby may die.

Following a delivery where a baby is deprived of oxygen it is possible that certain treatments could improve the outcome. One treatment is therapeutic hypothermia, or cooling the baby. In one study, this was accomplished by placing the child on a mat that was cooled for several days. This treatment was deemed to show some promise in a 2009 study that involved 300 newborns. Tests on the children once they reached18 months indicated that the treatment was beneficial in short term.

Another study recently followed up with these children to determine if the treatment had a longer term effect. The results of that study, which looked at the kids when they were six and seven years old, were also promising. While only 28 percent of children who did not receive therapeutic hypothermia were found to not have brain abnormalities, that number was much higher—45 percent—when babies deprived of oxygen were cooled after birth. This conclusion was reached after looking at: signs of disability, the attention spans of the children, memory power and IQ scores.

Caring for children who have special needs because of being deprived of oxygen during birth can be expensive. When their condition is the result of actions that medical providers either took or failed to take, the parents of the child may seek compensation via a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source:  BBC News, “Cooling babies ‘helps reduce longer-term brain damage’,” Smitha Mundasad, July 10, 2014