What is neonatal head cooling?

Nearly four million babies are born each year in the U.S. And while childbirth is a common occurrence, delivering an infant can sometimes be challenging and difficult, causing complications later on. The World Health Organization reports that three-quarters of all newborn deaths occur in the first week of life. And some of these can be attributed to brain damage during the birth process. However, doctors can slow the effects of swelling and injury by using neonatal head cooling.

What You Need to Know About Neonatal Head Cooling

neonatal head cooling

Neonatal head cooling is a somewhat new treatment through which doctors cool a newborn’s head immediately after a traumatic delivery. If a baby experienced a lack of oxygen during birth, otherwise known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) caused by asphyxia, the brain can experience irreversible damage. The treatment, which helps to slow the death of brain cells, includes:

  • Placing a thermal cap on the baby’s head or placing the baby on a cooling blanket
  • Reducing the temperature to around 33 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Monitoring the infant for approximately three days

Babies who have experienced the following are eligible for neonatal head cooling treatment to prevent the progression of brain swelling and cell death, which can lead to long-term damage or death:

  • An APGAR score of less than 5 in the 10 minutes following birth
  • Delivery in week 36 of pregnancy or later
  • Serious abnormal brain functioning
  • Significant lack of oxygen during delivery, rendering the infant unconscious

Head Cooling Might Mean Birth Injury

Even though head cooling is a relatively new treatment option supported by positive results from preliminary research, some risks are involved. Additionally, there’s more potential for a birth injury case involving head cooling. For example, a birth injury suit might result from:

  • A medical mistake warranting head cooling treatment
  • Failure to treat brain damage with head cooling
  • Improper administration of head cooling
  • Delaying of head cooling treatment
  • Missed diagnosis of HIE, causing a failure to treat

Because medical personnel must meet a standard of care when delivering a child, failing to meet that standard in any way can lead to a birth injury lawsuit.

Legal Help Is Available

If you suspect your baby was injured as a result of head cooling or a medical mistake created the need for head cooling treatment, it’s important you seek help from a trusted birth injury attorney. The legal team at Holton Law Firm is ready to advocate for you and your baby, and we invite you to review our free guide, Answers to Parents’ Questions About Birth Injuries.