Brain Cooling condition occurs in approximately 1 in every 1,000 births
and it causes about 20% of all cases of cerebral palsy.
During gestation, the infant brain is vulnerable to a variety of threats
that can leave permanent damage if not recognized and addressed early.
If an infant experiences asphyxiation before or during birth, a condition
called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) can arise caused by the lack
of oxygen to the brain. This condition occurs in approximately 1 in every
1,000 births and it causes about 20% of all cases of cerebral palsy.
HIE evolves and worsens as time passes, usually over the span of several
hours. When oxygen and blood flow are initially cut off, the body goes
through a series of attempts to repair itself, which can be effective
only when HIE is mild. In moderate and severe cases, as the newborn’s
body attempts to fix itself, severe brain damage can result. Damage is
generally not immediate, rather it is the end result of a number of chemical
Because the condition worsens and the threat of permanent damage increases
as more time passes, it is essential to detect HIE as early as possible
in order to minimize damage and save the child’s life.
Diagnosis & Care
A relatively new and uncomplicated technique can prevent permanent brain
damage in newborns who have experienced a lack of oxygen before or during
birth. Research suggests that risks can be drastically minimized if the
baby is given mild hypothermia, essentially cooling the body’s temperature.
This can be accomplished with either a water-filled cap or a fluid-filled
blanket. Both of these methods reduce the body’s temperature by
between 3 and 4 degrees celsius for 3 days following birth. Reducing the
brain’s temperature has been shown to stop the damaging chemical
reactions from occurring, and allow the body’s natural repairing
methods a chance to work.
Timing is of the utmost importance when an infant experiences HIE. It is
essential that brain cooling be initiated no more than 6 hours after the
baby is born. Physicians must make a quick decision to determine if the
child’s symptoms and condition can be addressed with brain cooling.
The baby must meet certain criteria, which include being nearly full term
(at least 36 weeks). Also, the newborn must have sustained only moderate
If your child has a brain injury or cerebral palsy, and you believe they
could have been a candidate for brain cooling, but it was not offered,
you may be eligible for compensation. A doctor not offering the option
of brain cooling can be the result of medical malpractice or negligence.
Contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt
for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.
Brain cooling has been the only successful medical intervention for reducing
brain damage in infants who have experienced HIE before or during birth,
and it is widely used in hospitals throughout the world. In 2006, the
FDA approved the Olympic Cool-Cap System, designed to prevent or reduce
brain damage in babies born with moderate to severe HIE.
Treating newborns with HIE using brain cooling greatly increases the chances
of a child living a healthy, long, and normal life. Up to 10,000 babies
are born in the United States each year with moderate to severe HIE. Nearly
60% of all newborns with severe HIE will die. Brain cooling has been shown
to decrease the number of deaths and severe disabilities in newborns with
HIE by more than 25%.
Books & Resources
For more information on brain cooling and HIE, the following resources