I love when I experience new technology in medicine that makes a difference in someone’s life. My most recent experience was learning about the cooling cap a fairly new therapeutic tool for neonates with any type of brain swelling or seizures.
Last week my niece had a baby girl. Her labor was progressing nicely, when the baby flipped and presented posteriorly. This is a more complicated delivery. She had been at home and was taken to the hospital. Fetal monitors showed no distress but a C-Section was required. There was meconium and at some point the baby had a lack of oxygen.
Brain swelling is the result of oxygen depravation at birth. When the brain swells it can cause brain damage. The result can range from no damage to severe developmental delays and brain damage. This is a parents nightmare. In the past, the initial treatment was medications and observation.
Since 2005, there has been a new technique called the cooling cap. The cap cools the brain and reduces the swelling. The end result is decreasing brain damage. The cap brings down the temperature of the brain for three days. When it is removed, the temperature is slowly brought back to normal. The baby is watched closely.
With no immediate complications like difficulty breathing, active seizures or fever/infection, the baby can be discharge home within 3-4 days after the removal of the cap. There is no way of knowing if there will be any developmental delays or damage. It will only be known as the baby develops and developmental markers are met.
Cornell-Weill Hospital in NY is a leader in this treatment and is the neonatal intensive care my niece was at. Not just was the care excellent, they provide six years of assessment for a developmental problems. This means they will do all the necessary tests for evaluation. They have a team of specialist that participate in the evaluation. This is an excellent service because so many pediatricians are overwhelmed and busy and may not get the detailed tests done.
There is a great group/fan page on facebook called Newborn brain cooling. There are great stories from parents. CAn be very helpful and supportive
The good news is my niece is doing so well and should go home any day. I love that there is something for newborns that gives hope to parents. It surely gave it to my family.