There are many reasons why an infant can be born with oxygen deprivation and the effects of the lack of oxygen to an infant’s brain can be severe, causing permanent brain damage or death. However, a new study has found a treatment for oxygen-deprived infants decreases the number of deaths and side effects caused by the oxygen deprivation. Even though oxygen deprivation during birth is rare only occurring in 1 in 1,000 births in the U.S. if it happens to your family it can be devastating. For example, oxygen deprivation can cause cerebral palsy.
A treatment to oxygen deprivation is known as “cooling.” It involves decreasing the infant’s body temperature with either a cap or a blanket. By decreasing body temperature of an infant it helps halt potential deterioration of brain cells that if damaged cause permanent damage or death. For each degree an infant’s body temperature is decreased the infant’s body function slows down by approximately 10-15%. That reduction of body function helps protect cells from becoming deprived of oxygen and if the cells can be protected the risk of death or brain damage decreases. Once the child’s breathing levels are stable the infant’s body temperature is increased one degree every twelve hours until it returns to normal. Cooling is a process that can’t be used for all infants with oxygen deprivation; infants with severe complications from the oxygen deprivation are unfortunately not eligible for cooling.
Cooling does not completely correct the affects of oxygen deprivation, but a study looked at the differences between children who were cooled and those were not. The study re-evaluated children with oxygen deprivation when they were six or seven years old and found that only 47% of cooled children had a low I.Q., while 62% of the children who were not cooled had a low I.Q. Further, upon re-evaluation the study found that 22% of the infants who had been cooled have passed away since, while the death rate for infants who were not cooled was 44%. Although, these numbers might not appear great to some, they are significant.
I wrote earlier that cooling could occur either by a cap or a blanket. Both allow for the infant’s body temperature to be reduced and both would be more helpful to an infant eligible than not cooling, however, there are some differences between the two which people should be aware of. The cap has a simpler technology, allowing for the staff monitoring the infant to be less specialized with the equipment. By using the cap it enables a hospital to have more staff members be able to work with the technology. The blanket works differently allowing for more monitoring due to the electrodes attached to the blanket, but requires a more specialized staff. Whether the cap or the blanket is used the outcome of cooling is very impressive.
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