Cooling Therapy for Newborns
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Researchers at Golisano Children's Hospital are among those confirming that therapeutic hypothermia, or cooling therapy, can help reduce the likelihood of death or disability in newborns at risk for brain damage. It's one of the first therapies hospitals can offer full term babies that do not get enough oxygen during birth.
"If we can cool babies from a normal of 37 degree centigrade, or 98.6, down to 33.5 degrees centigrade for a period of 72 hours, we can markedly improve their outcome,” said Dr. Ronnie Guillet, neonatologist.
Guillet says that immediately after birth, a baby is identified as at risk for having significant brain damage from lack of oxygen. Once stabilized, the new born is brought to the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, and placed on a cooling blanket.
"This is the cooling blanket. There's just a light receiving blanket for the baby's comfort," Guillet said.
After the cooling period, doctors gradually warm the baby's temperature.
Children receiving this therapy were found to be doing extremely well at 18 months of age. However, researchers took the study a step further and continued monitoring these children to ensure there are no setbacks.
"We were very gratified to see that the results were very consistent that the babies who were doing well at 18 months were still doing very well once they got to early school age," said Guillet.
Golisano Children's Hospital has participated in cooling therapy studies since 1999. It's been part of standard care here for about seven years. Doctors say it improves the healing process allowing these at-risk children to go home in better condition.
Lauren Strobel was not able to breathe and didn't have a heartbeat when she was born in 2010 in Elmira. She was rushed to Golisano and treated by Dr. Guillet.
"The way Lauren started, I didn't even know if she was going to survive the hospitalization. At a little over a year, she was meeting normal milestones for a one year old,” Guillet said. “So this therapy has made a huge difference for those children who unfortunately have to suffer some asphyxia around the time of birth."
There are new studies underway looking into whether cooling at an even lower temperature or for a longer period of time will further improve the outcomes for these children.