Neonatal Therapeutic Hypothermia

Therapeutic hypothermia is a clinical treatment that involves moderately reducing a patient’s body temperature in order to slow disease progression and to improve health.

This therapeutic option is being provided to term/near-term infants in the C4 NICU at Nationwide Children’s who experience birth-related oxygen deprivation and in turn show signs of brain injury. 

Neonatal therapeutic hypothermia at Nationwide Children’s is intended to improve long-term neurological outcome for patients who would otherwise have no available options beyond life-supportive care.  The entire treatment takes approximately 72 hours.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital is the first and only hospital in central Ohio to offer this therapeutic service.

How does neonatal therapeutic hypothermia work?

Historically, physicians have observed that people who were cold seemed to suffer fewer negative outcomes with certain injuries compared to those who were warmer.  The classic example is the child who falls through an icy pond and fully recovers despite being under water for many minutes.  Based on these observations and research with pre-clinical models, therapeutic hypothermia has been used in patients at risk for brain injury due to heart attack, stroke or spinal cord injury.

The precise mechanisms by which therapeutic hypothermia works are still unknown.  The current theory is that a lower core temperature slows biological processes and alters the timeframe during which bodily damage can occur.

This could be important in improving long-term outcomes of brain injury by restraining the progression of brain damage and by prolonging the therapeutic window during which treatments might be effective.

Who is eligible for neonatal therapeutic hypothermia at Nationwide Children's?

Timeframe for neonatal therapeutic hypothermia is critical.  Neonatal therapeutic hypothermia at Nationwide Children’s is only applied to babies that have been delivered at a minimum of 36 weeks of gestation and who have significant signs of possible brain damage.

If a neonatal patient is near-term or term (36 weeks or greater) and has suffered possible brain injury during birth, please call us immediately at (614) 722-4650 and our Neonatology staff will walk you through the referral process.