In a groundbreaking discovery, doctors at Children’s Hospital Los
Angeles (CHLA) have found a new treatment to protect newborn babies from
brain damage. Inducing hypothermia in newborn babies’ brains can prevent a devastating
condition known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a disorder that
involves a newborn’s brain not getting a sufficient supply of oxygen.
Affecting about two in every 1,000 infants, this condition is a leading
cause of death in newborns and can cause debilitating damage if not treated
immediately. It is estimated that one in every four affected infants will
eventually die from HIE.
So far, doctors only know that using extreme cold works – but the
reasons behind it remain unclear. In nearly every other scenario, hypothermia
can be a considerably damaging condition. As the body gets colder, vital
processes such as heart rate and organ function begin to slow down due
to a lack of oxygenated blood.
In order to capitalize on this new discovery, doctors at CHLA are moving
all equipment from the infant critical care unit into the MRS lab. Unlike
a traditional MRI, an MRS machine can pinpoint brain activity and show
exactly what is going on during induced hypothermia. Hopefully, this will
lead to a discovery of the reason for this phenomenon and open the door
for new treatments to help save the lives of even more infants. For more
on this new medical finding,
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