A Nationwide Birth Injury Resource

Cooling therapy is often used when a newborn has hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which is brain damage caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. HIE typically occurs at birth, depriving the infant's body of oxygen to the blood supply and is also called perinatal asphyxia.

Why did my baby require cooling therapy?

Signs that cooling therapy are needed include an oxygen-depriving birth injury, an Apgar score of five or less, prolonged resuscitation, severe acidosis or abnormal umbilical or neonatal blood gas test result.

Controlled cooling of your child's body and brain temperature reduces the chance for permanent brain damage.

When should my baby receive cooling therapy?

The sooner, the better is the answer when it comes to administering cooling therapy. Immediately after birth is the best timeframe, but not more than six hours after delivery has been standard practice. However, new research shows that administering cooling therapy as much as 24-hours after birth can still have benefits.

How does cooling therapy work and how long should it be administered?

Cooling therapy uses caps, blankets and mattresses to cool a baby's body temperature. In hospitals without a NICU, ice packs can be used temporarily during transfer to another facility. The baby's head or entire body could be cooled, depending on the situation. The ideal cooled temperature is 92.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Following therapy, the baby's body temperature is slowly warmed again.

Cooling usually lasts up to three days. For more severely affected babies, it could last longer.

What are the risks?

Few adverse effects have been found in babies who received cooling therapy, however, there is a slight risk of hypothermia. The most common side effect is sinus bradycardia, which is a slowed heart rate. Most cases of sinus bradycardia are not life-threatening.

Cooling therapy may not prevent conditions that accompany HIE, such as developmental delay, cerebral palsy and hearing loss.

What are the benefits?

Reduction in permanent brain damage is the ultimate benefit of cooling therapy in newborns. The cooling slows the processes that lead to potentially permanent brain damage. Brain cell death and swelling are common forms of permanent damage.

What happens next?

Babies need continued monitoring by a doctor and team of specialists after cooling therapy. MRIs, EEGs, blood gas tests, infection testing and treatment, and other tests will be a routine part of your baby's assessment. Doctors will monitor development, including feeding and digestion, the body's ability to urinate, and more.

Contact us if you suspect negligence

Unfortunately, healthcare negligence can cause birth injuries such as HIE. When a child is injured because of medical mistakes made during prenatal care or birth, the family has legal recourse. Our legal team can help navigate the medical malpractice claim process and help prove that a standard of care was not met, causing injury to your newborn.