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Therapeutic hypothermia holds potential for newborns

A news report yesterday told the story of a family that had gone through the terrifying experience of giving birth to an infant that was not breathing and had no heartbeat. Her Apgar score was zero. As you may guess every moment that passes when the infant's brain is deprived of oxygen increases the risk of serious brain trauma even if the baby survives.

Fortunately for this family, a nearby hospital had adopted 'cooling therapy' as a standard of care. Cooling therapy uses a variety of methods to cool the infant's body temperature and slow down the processes within the infant. This induced hypothermia can buy critical time to restore breathing and blood flow while reducing the risk of serious brain injury.

For the family chronicled in yesterday's news report, the cooling therapy gave their baby a second chance. The hospital used a cold mattress to drop the infant's body temperature for 72 hours. During that time they kept the baby on a ventilator. They then slowly rewarmed the infant. While the prognosis was grim for much of the time those first few days, after five days the little girl opened her eyes for the first time. After three weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit the baby was able to go home.

As medical advances improve the standard of care it is important that physicians and hospitals have a comprehensive understanding of emerging medical procedures. Some therapies like this one provide hope where only a few years ago there would have been little or none.

Source: WHEC Channel 10 News "Meet Miracle Kid Lauren Strobel" Janet Lomax, June 1, 2011

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