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Cooling Blanket Helps Slow Newborn Brain Damage

Brain damage affects approximately four in 1,000 babies born in the United States every year. Many of those born with brain damage face lifelong struggles with various disabilities, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and learning difficulties.

Previously, there was little hope for treating and preventing cerebral palsy in babies born with brain damage. However, neonatologists at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., recently created a simple technique that provides critically ill newborns with a better chance for a normal life.

Cooling Blanket: The Technique

Brain damage is caused by a lack of oxygen or else a low blood supply. Doctors now believe that cold water may be able to slow the progression of brain damage and, in some cases, even save lives.

Babies who have sustained moderate brain damage, are younger than six hours old, and were born after at least 36 weeks of gestation are eligible for a new technique known as brain cooling.

According to Georgetown neonatologists, babies can be wrapped in a small blanket, which circulates cold water to create a cooling effect. The blanket helps to lower the baby's body temperature to 91 degrees over 72 hours.

The body's systems slow, reducing energy requirements and ultimately protecting the brain from further, potentially more harmful, brain damage. Once the cooling process is complete, the baby's body warmed back to normal temperature.

Studies have shown that the cooling blanket technique can reduce the disability and death rates in babies born with brain damage at a rate of 16 to 27 percent. Also, there have been no reports of adverse effects in babies who have been treated with this technique.

Doctors note that the cooling blanket is still experimental and that more studies need to be conducted to determine the long-term effects associated with its use.

Contact a cerebral palsy attorney to learn about the legal rights of cerebral palsy patients.

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