Children’s Hospital now provides therapeutic hypothermia – a new whole body cooling therapy for newborns with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) to give them a better chance at life with reduced disability.
Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a condition that occurs when the brain does not receive an adequate oxygen supply for a period of time and can happen when a baby is deprived of oxygen during birth. Babies with HIE may show a decreased level of consciousness, altered spontaneous activity or abnormal posture, tone or reflexes. Mortality has been reported as high as 50 percent for infants with severe HIE, with up to 80 percent of survivors experiencing neurological problems, including cerebral palsy.
Therapeutic hypothermia therapy involves cooling the baby to a body temperature of 92.3’ F for 72 hours. This cooling slows the baby’s metabolic process and decreases brain injury from the HIE. The process takes place in the Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit where the babies can be closely monitored.
Time is critical for these babies. Therapeutic hypothermia must be initiated within six hours of birth. Studies have shown starting to cool the babies during this period significantly reduces the incidence of death or severe disability. Children’s Hospital Central California is the only healthcare facility in the region to offer this specialized therapy, which safely lowers the baby’s temperature by placing the infant on a cooling mattress with intensive monitoring.
Children’s is providing area hospitals with criteria to identify babies who could benefit from this therapy. If those hospitals suspect a newborn has HIE, they can call Children’s Hospital for a neonatal consultation and possible transport to Children’s NICU.