pediatric hypothermia

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What To Do For Oxygen-Deprived Newborns? Cool Them Down

Nate Lawrence underwent induced pediatric hypothermia at birth. Here he is, at 1, with his parents, Elizabeth and TJ.

By Fran Cronin
Guest Blogger

Nate Lawrence was born in Winchester Hospital in Massachusetts, December 16, 2010, in severe distress. He was limp, purple and not breathing. Both his lungs had collapsed.

As his parents and grandparents began to descend into panic, the neonatology staff at Winchester went into action.

They took x-rays of Nate’s chest, put a breathing tube down his throat, wrapped a turban around his head and placed him in a clear acrylic transportation box. Children’s Hospital Boston, 13 miles to the east, had been alerted that Nate was on his way. The ambulance team was instructed not to turn on warmers or swaddle Nate. He was to arrive at Children’s a cool 92.3 degrees, more than six degrees below normal.

Nate was born hypoxic, which means that because of his collapsed lungs, insufficient oxygen was flowing through his blood and into his brain. Lack of oxygen, like Nate’s, can lead to cell injury or cell death and ultimately to irreversible brain damage. To halt this potential deterioration, Nate’s body needed to slow down. Cell metabolism had to be lessened and his demand for oxygen reduced. He needed to operate on less energy and to rest.

Since lab trials began almost a decade ago, so-called “cooling” has demonstrated that for every degree a baby’s body temperature is lowered, its body functions and demand for energy slow down by 10 to 15 percent. Continue reading