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Infants who are born suffering from a lack of oxygen are far more likely to endure severe brain injury and, potentially, permanent disability. Lack of oxygen can occur both in the womb, if the fetus’ umbilical cord becomes wrapped around its neck, or during delivery. In certain cases of hospital negligence, an infant’s distress signals may be misread or simply overlooked.
A recent study by researchers at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in England has cast more light on a promising method for fighting long-term brain injury immediately after birth. This is great news for parents, doctors and infants faced with the potential of severe brain damage in an infant.
Research focused on a practice known as “cooling treatment,” which involves injection of a cooling liquid into the patient’s head. Frozen pads are also placed on the victim’s back and chest to drop body temperature. According to researchers, this cooling treatment, essentially, puts the brain to sleep — which allows it to subsist on less oxygen.
Following a brain injury, the brain often swells, lessening the flow of oxygen and blood to it. If the brain is cooled and therefore needs less oxygen, it would appear to follow that the infant’s brain would suffer less damage.
This cooling treatment has already been show to be effective in the short term for reducing brain swelling and pressure. Now, researchers are curious whether the same method might help certain patients in the long run, preventing or lessening brain damage over time.