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03rd Feb 2020

New ‘cooling’ therapy given to over 200 babies to reduce risk of brain damage

Melissa Carton

It could save lives.

Over 200 babies have undergone a radical new treatment that could help reduce brain damage and even death among young babies that have been deprived of oxygen.

The new cooling therapy also known as hypothermic therapy was first used between 2016-2018 to 209 newborn babies who had suffered a lack of oxygen at birth.

Out of the 209 babies that underwent the therapy the 185 experienced positive results.

egg freezing

A lack of oxygen can lead to the deterioration of brain cells. The cooling treatment aims to slow this process down so that as many brain cells as possible survive.

During the process the baby’s core body temperature is reduced to 33C for 72 hours, several degrees lower than a newborn’s average temperature which is about 37C.

According to Independent Dr John Murphy, a consultant neonatologist at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street had this to say about the pioneering new treatment;

“Any baby who has neurological disturbance due to lack of oxygen is suitable for treatment. The process begins at the local hospital and the baby is cooled down.”

After infants are treated locally they are later transferred to larger maternity hospitals in either Dublin or Cork.

Three days after the cooling is applied the baby is rewarmed and specialised neonatal staff perform a brain MRI in Holles Street to assess the efficiency of the therapy.

Dr Murphy has said that so far they have seen largely positive results with a reduction in fatalities and disability among oxygen deprived newborns.

According to Murphy the death rate among these babies had fallen to 11 per cent, compared to 27 per cent before the use of the cooling treatment and rate of physical disability had also dropped to 13 per cent down from 27 per cent.

Medical experts are saying that this new treatment could be the biggest medical advancement in neonatology in 25 years.