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Brain Cooling

Attorneys Located in Baltimore, Maryland Serving Clients Nationwide

Brain Cooling condition occurs in approximately 1 in every 1,000 births and it causes about 20% of all cases of cerebral palsy.

Warning Signs

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 reactions.

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 brain damage.

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.

Treatment Centers

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 are available:

Contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.

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