Cooling cap technology saves lives in NICU
When a baby is born with a serious medical condition called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, his or her brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. About 9,000 babies are born in the United States each year with the disease, which can cause cerebral palsy, secondary injuries or even death. At the Haslam Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital, these risks have been severely decreased by the introduction of the lifesaving Cool Cap System.
This relatively new technology uses cooling caps to slow the metabolism of the babies. Through this slowing process, babies can maintain safe core temperatures while selective parts of their brains are cooled. The baby wears the cooling cap on his or her head for three days, during which vital signs are constantly monitored.
For John Buchheit, M.D., Neonatologist, Pediatrix Medical Group, East Tennessee Children's Hospital, the Cool Cap system is incredibly valuable in the NICU. He explained, “It allows the babies to rest while decreasing the chemical reactions in their brains.” These chemical reactions are directly linked to secondary injuries that cause lifelong developmental issues. By slowing these chemical reactions the baby has a chance to recover.
At Children’s Hospital, cooling caps are used 10-15 times a year for acutely ill babies. Because this technology is advanced and relatively new, it is not a fixture in all NICUs. Dr. Buchheit said, “This technology is important for babies in our area in preventing secondary injuries due to problems in the brain. We’re fortunate, and the babies are fortunate to have it.”