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Cooling Helps Oxygen-Deprived Newborns
Date:9/30/2009

had been born near-term and who had suffered brain damage as a result of oxygen deprivation.

The newborns were randomized either to intensive care along with cooling of the body to 33.5 degrees Celsius (92.3 degrees Fahrenheit) or to intensive care alone.

Those in the cooling group were swaddled in cooling blankets and placed in incubators without the power on. They were cooled for about 72 hours.

The infants were then followed until they were 18 months old.

Mortality was roughly the same in the two groups: 42 infants in the cooled group died, compared with 44 infants in the control group. The number of infants with severe neurodevelopmental disability was 32 in the cooled group and 42 in the control group.

But babies in the cooled group had a 57 percent increased chance of surviving without neurological damage. This included a 33 percent decreased risk of cerebral palsy as well as improved scores on indices of mental development and psychomotor skills.

Cooling also reduced the rate of multiple neurodevelopmental problems: 21 infants in the cooled group (out of 112 survivors) vs. 33 (out of 110 survivors) in the other group.

Cooling probably works by "slowing down the metabolism of neurons or brain cells in such a way that it prevents them from dying," Greenberg explained.

Surgeons sometimes use severe cooling to stop the heart when performing cardiothoracic surgery in newborns, he added.

The authors, from a consortium of institutions in Britain, pointed out that some effects might not be evidenced until after 18 months of age, but that no study has yet looked this far out.

More information

The Children's National Medical Center has an explanation of whole-body hypothermia.


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