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New Medical Treatment Offers Promise In Preventing Cerebral Palsy at Birth and Improving The Quality of Life For Many

Childbirth can be a wonderful experience for expecting parents, but sometimes things do not go as planned. In some cases, birth injuries such as Cerebral Palsy can occur during delivery and lead to trauma and death. However, medical scientists are developing ways to increase the survival chances of infants with Cerebral Palsy.

A woman in Detroit benefitted from the new procedure when doctors took action after her uterus ruptured during delivery. The doctors of the Detroit Medical Center saved Kierra Cain’s life by wrapping the child in a chilled blanket. This form of therapy is known as hypothermia.

What Is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a therapeutic treatment that lowers a patient’s body temperature in order to treat fever from infections or neurological diseases. Studies conducted by the Detroit Medical Center have shown that hypothermia can increase the survival chances of infants with encephalopathy— a condition caused by an oxygen deficiency at birth. Doctors are becoming more interested in how hypothermia can help infants and are conducting more studies to see if the therapy will be useful in the treatment of heart stoppages and brain injuries.

The Study

The study that was conducted by medical scientists at the Detroit Medical Center expanded upon a smaller, more limited study that had been done before. Their study was conducted on full term babies who had been diagnosed with or were in danger of developing encephalopathy from July 2000 to May 2003. The study showed that using chilled blankets lowered the amount of deaths and even helped prevent Cerebral Palsy in some children.

The Procedure

Hypothermia is a simple and inexpensive procedure. Doctors use a blanket with cool water that circulates to lower the infant’s body temperature for 72 hours. According to Doctor Shankaran, a division director of neonatal/perinatal medicine at the DMC’s Hutzel Women’s Hospital and its Children’s Hospital in Detroit, the procedure only costs about $6,000. However, even though it is cost efficient, some smaller hospitals may not be aware of the procedure or know about its benefits.

The Impact of the Treatment

The once panicked Charlotte Cain, who almost lost her child ten years ago, is extremely thankful for the choice that doctors at the Detroit Medical Center made to use hypothermia to ultimately save her daughter’s life. She and her husband were told after Kierra was born that she would not make it through the night. However, Charlotte— Kierra’s mother— was glad to announce that her daughter survived when she spoke at a news conference about how well hypothermia worked as a treatment for her daughter.

She also told reporters that her Kierra was one of 190 babies that were used in the study, which was conducted in Detroit and other American neonatal facilities. Kierra did suffer from seizures after she was born, but the seizures stopped after she was put on medication. A year and a half later, she was no longer required to take the medicine and was free of seizures.

Charlotte explained that she could only touch her daughter’s hand when she was an infant to show affection. Kierra is now a fifth grader who loves to do all of the things that most fifth graders enjoy. The contact early on made an impact and Kierra still enjoys having her hand rubbed to this day.

Doctors have concluded that hypothermia treatment can save babies’ lives or prevent the kind of brain damage that could lead to Cerebral Palsy. They are working toward implementing it as a treatment option in pediatric care to save more lives. The study proved that babies who received the treatment were more likely to survive and less likely to develop Cerebral Palsy. Hopefully, this treatment will result in many more success stories like that of Charlotte and Kierra Cain.


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