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Cooling technique reduces brain damage

4th March 2011

A baby girl has made a good recovery after undergoing induced hypothermia treatment to reduce brain damage after she was starved of oxygen at birth.

motherandbaby1

Baby Ella was cooled for three days by doctors at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge who wrapped her in a blanket filled with fluid which cooled her whole body down from the normal 37C to 33.5C.

Inducing hypothermia is a procedure used on oxygen-loss babies. Now, nine months on, Ella is a healthy nine-month-old with no sign of brain abnormalities.

Her birth at Peterborough Maternity Unit was traumatic with her mother Rachel suffering a suspected ruptured placenta which restricted blood and oxygen supply.

As a result, Ella suffered hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which can lead to severe brain damage.

Doctors at Peterborough resuscitated Ella and began cooling her before she was transferred to Addenbrooke’s to continue the treatment.

Research has shown that cooling can limit brain injury.

Ella's consultant Dr Topun Austin, a neonatologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, said: “We had always thought that there is not much you can do after brain damage, but a recent study showed that brain cells took 24 to 48 hours to die so there is a window during which brain damage can be stopped.”

Cooling treatment is believed to work particularly well on babies who experience an acute, sudden lack of oxygen.

However, it is not known how successful the treatment has been until the babies grow older and they need to be monitored for the first few years of their lives.

 

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