Cooling slows down the metabolic processes of the body and prevents toxins from causing more damage while allowing the body to heal, Shankaran explained.
The report was published in the May 31 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
This study is a follow-up to an earlier study that found cooling reduced the rate of deaths and disability in infants when they were 18 to 22 months old.
In the new trial, 208 children with the condition were randomly assigned to cooling or not within six hours after birth.
Those cooled had their body temperature reduced to around 92 F for three days and then slowly rewarmed.
The children were evaluated again when they were 6 and 7 years old. The researchers looked specifically for deaths and IQs below 70.
The researchers found that for the 190 children for whom data were available, 47 percent in the cooling group had IQs below 70, compared with 62 percent among those who were not cooled.
Among those who had been cooled, 28 percent had died, compared with 44 percent of those who hadn't, they found.
Moreover, either death or severe disability occurred in 41 percent of those cooled, but in 60 percent of those not cooled, the researchers noted.
Dr. Howard Heiman, associate chief of the neonatal intensive care unit at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, said that "we know that brain cooling offers about a 15 percent improved chance to have a good outcome."
"But, we were worried that a good outcome in the short term, in the long term there would be hidden damage. We have a big sigh of relief that we are not causing more damage," he said.
Cooling is "not a silver bullet, but it gives us an edge without worsening the chances of bad survival," Heiman said.
For more information on birth defects, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine
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