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A baby girl, who was starved of oxygen before birth and born with no heartbeat, was resuscitated and cooled by doctors for three days to reduce brain damage.
The medical team at Addenbrooke's Hospital wrapped newborn Ella in a special blanket which was filled with a fluid which cooled her whole body down from the normal 37C to 33.5C. Inducing a state of hypothermia is a procedure used on babies deprived of oxygen.
Ella, who is now 9 months old appears to have no sign of any brain abnormalities. It is thought that Ella's Mum suffered a ruptured placenta during the birth, which would have restricted the baby's oxygen and blood supply, causing Ella to suffer from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, which can lead to severe brain damage. The doctors detected no heartbeat at Ella's birth, so they resuscitated her and gave her life support for more than 20 minutes to help her breathe.
The cooling process was started then to reduce the swelling around her brain, before transferring her to Addenbrooke's Hospital to continue her cooling treatment. Research has shown that cooling can limit the extent of brain injury and 'hypothermia' treatment is now widely used.
Dr Topun Austin, a neonatologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, said: "We had always thought that there is not much you can do after brain damage, but a recent study showed that brain cells took 24 to 48 hours to die so there is a window during which brain damage can be stopped. Ella spent three days being 'cooled' to help her brain repair itself"
Brain injuries from oxygen deprivation can be so severe that some babies simply do not survive. Many of the babies who do survive can develop anything from a mild to a severe disability. It is thought that the cooling treatment works particularly well on babies who experience a sudden lack of oxygen, like Ella.
Professor Donald Peebles, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said inducing hypothermia in oxygen-starved babies was fairly routine and that as long as it is administered quickly ".....research shows that one in eight given this cooling treatment will not have any brain damage."
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