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Baby Cooling Technique 'Could Prevent Cerebral Palsy'

Study Shows Lower Body Temperature Repairs Oxygen Deprivation Damage


Keeping newborn babies at a low body temperature can help them avoid growing up with disabilities caused from oxygen deprivation at birth, a new study has found.

A study by the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that babies suffering from asphyxia at birth can be helped by placing them on a special mat that is cooled to 33 degrees C for three days, a process known as therapeutic hypothermia.

The study, carried out in 2009, found that babies treated in this way tended to suffer fewer and less severe brain injuries than others deprived of oxygen at birth. Researchers examining the mental capacities of patients at the age of six or seven found around 45 per cent of cooled children were found to have no brain abnormalities, compared with just 28 per cent of those who did not have this treatment.

In addition to this, only 21 per cent of the cooled children had cerebral palsy, compared with 36 per cent in the control group, while babies treated with therapeutic hypothermia were more likely to have an IQ above 85.

Speaking to the BBC, lead author of the study Professor David Edwards, of King's College London, said: "What is remarkable about this study is that 20 years ago people thought nothing could be done for this group of patients who can suffer devastating brain damage. Now we have shown that something can be done.

"This is crucial research - without it we could not have been confident this is a long-lasting and worthwhile therapy."

Such findings may mean that the use of therapeutic hypothermia becomes a standard treatment in cases of asphyxia at birth - and hospitals may be given a responsibility to ensure this is always swiftly applied in such cases.

While the research did show an improvement in mental and wider health outcomes for patients given the treatment, it did not make any difference to survival rates. The rate of babies failing to live to school age remained three in ten.

If medical errors during birth caused your child’s cerebral palsy, our expert solicitors could help you claim compensation. Visit out Cerebral Palsy Claims page for more information or call or free on 0808 163 4557.

Expert Opinion
We see numerous cases when children have developed brain damage as a result of problems during their birth, so this research could be an important step forward to improve or prevent it from happening.

“Newborn babies’ brains are extremely vulnerable and need to access to state-of-the-art treatments in order to give them the best start in life.

“If doctors are able to treat patients at such a young age to either improve or reverse the symptoms of damage to the brain, this could be a big step towards major advancements in this area of medical expertise.”
Rachelle Mahapatra, Partner

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