Friday, June 12, 2009

Induced Hypothermia for Newborns with Brain Injury

Neonatologists at UPMC have developed an induced hypothermia protocol to help newborns who are suffering from a brain injury known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) due to a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. HIE occurs in 1 to 2 of every 1,000 infants and has a 40% fatality rate. In addition, 40% of the survivors suffer severe long-term disabilities.
Dr. Richard Telesco, a neonatologist at UPMC who developed the protocol, says they've known for many years that hypothermia can reduced the energy demands of the body and therefore protect the brain, but not until now could they do it safely. Dr. Telesco says the newborn must be cooled to 92.3 degrees for 72 hours, and the process must begin within 6 hours or the damage to the brain could be too catastrophic. Dr. Telesco says without the whole-body cooling, restoring the blood flow can actually create toxins as the blood goes to damaged brain cells and increases brain swelling. He says the key after the 72 hours of hypothermia is to slowly warm the infant.
Telesco says they have a neonatal transport team that can fly or drive to pick up the endangered infant and being the process on site and continue it during transport till the baby is placed in a cooling unit at Children's Hospital or Magee Hospital.

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