During birth, a lack of oxygen to the brain can lead to extensive developmental complications, including traumatic brain injuries and death. Crucial development occurs during the first stages of life and a healthy brain is essential to proper growth. A number of complications can lead to a lack of brain oxygen, or hypoxia in medical terms. The attending physician and medical staff should recognize the signs of hypoxia during or directly following the birth. When that occurs, certain treatments can lessen the extent of the injury and prevent further problems. Head cooling is one possible course of action and it is the subject of recent studies.
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association investigated the best practices for head cooling treatments among infants. Head cooling occurs when the temperature of the brain is gradually cooled to a stage where its cells are at a resting point. After 72 hours, the cells are reportedly “woken up” without significant damage, which improves future neurodevelopment.
The study included 18 neonatal centers across the country. Observed infants were placed into four observations groups and treated with various levels of cooling temperatures and cooling times. Researchers concluded that the ideal process is to lower the body temperature to 33.5 degrees for a period of 72 hours. These findings are counter to earlier speculation about the effectiveness of lowering the temperature to 32 degrees or for an extended period of 120 hours. Researchers will continue to track the health of the surviving babies for 18 months to determine long term effectiveness.
What is Hypoxia
The general cause of hypoxia is the restriction of oxygen to the brain during delivery. There are two general ways that the condition develops:
***The umbilical cord wrapping around the baby’s neck – This prevents the baby from taking a breath following birth. If the condition continues without correction, hypoxia develops rapidly.
***An underlying medical complication that causes the restriction of oxygen – The condition may gradually restrict the air supply over the hours and days following birth. Under these circumstances, the brain’s health declines until hypoxia develops and becomes life threatening.
The condition reportedly occurs in one out of every 1,000 full term births. Infant or early childhood death occurs in 15 to 20 percent of all cases. An additional 25 percent develop severe neuropsychological complications, to include:
***visual dysfunction ***motor dysfunction
When physicians fail to diagnose hypoxia or implement proper treatment methods in a timely manner, the result can prove deadly for the newborn and the family. Physical pain, emotional turmoil and financial burdens can all ensue. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, the family can secure adequate compensation from the responsible parties.
If your newborn has suffered from the consequences of hypoxia, a capable attorney can guide you through the stages of a medical malpractice claim.
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