At St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, New York, infants born with select brain injuries, which can be due to a labor and delivery complication or obstetrical malpractice, are now receiving cold therapy treatments.
Research suggests that cold therapy, which consists of placing a newborn baby on an icy cold blanket for 72 hours after birth, may reduce brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen or blood flow at birth, known as hypoxia, ischemia, or asphyxia. A lock of oxygen or blood flow can lead to brain damage, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation and other developmental problems.
Practically speaking, cold therapy slows metabolic activity in the brain which may prevent the second stage of injury due to oxygen deprivation – second stage injuries occur as blood and oxygen flow returns to portions of the baby’s brain deprived during delivery. Swelling is common during this time period, which the cold therapy is intended to reduce.
At St. Joe’s, the therapy was recently applied to two babies born following placental abruption, which is a life-threatening condition (for the mother and baby) where the placenta separates from the uterus. Crouse Hospital, which operates Syracuse, New York’s largest neonatal intensive care unit, has plans to introduce cold therapy during the Spring of 2009.
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