WEDNESDAY, May 30 (HealthDay News) -- Children who suffered from a lack of oxygen during birth and who received whole-body cooling fared better than those who weren't given the treatment, a new study shows.
Although rare, the condition can result in brain damage and death. However, putting infants into a state of hypothermia by temporarily lowering their body temperature seems to help the brain repair itself, the researchers report.
"Children [who were] cooled at birth, at 6 to 7 years of age had a lower frequency of death or IQ below 70," said lead researcher Dr. Seetha Shankaran, director of neonatal/perinatal medicine and a distinguished professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University School of Medicine, in Detroit.
The researchers noted that the difference in IQ was not statistically significant, but the survival difference was.
"There was protection of the brain from lack of oxygen and lack of blood flow by hypothermia from the time the infants were born all the way through to 6 to 7," Shankaran said.
The risk of death or disability was greatest among those who had the most initial damage, she added.
"Cooling is not completely protective, but among children who had moderate injury, the incidence of low IQ was only 47 percent, compared to 62 percent of the controls," she said.
"Cooling is now being practiced throughout the United States and we can be reassured that the benefits are seen in infancy are going to persist," Shankaran added.
Oxygen deprivation during birth, also known as neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, occurs in roughly one in every 1,000 births in the United States. It can result when the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the infant's neck or if it is pinched by the infant's shoulder, among other causes. This cuts off circulation of oxygen and blood to the infant and results in damage to the brain and other organ
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