Blankets Save Babies Brains
Four out of every thousand babies born in the U.S. suffers brain damage. Traditionally, there was nothing doctors could do to prevent the lifetime of disabilities that could follow. But now they're using a simple blanket to save brains and change lives. Doctors at the University of Florida are using the new technique. Instead of keeping the baby warm, the blanket cools her from about 98 to 91 degrees. Cold water circulates through the blanket, triggering a kind of protective hypothermia that prevents brain damage. In an 18-month study the cooling blanket reduced the death rate, risk of seizures and cerebral palsy and improved mental scores, motor skills and vision. Babies must be cooled within six hours of birth — for a total of 72 hours. This treatment can help any baby who is deprived of oxygen at birth including those who have the umbilical cords wrapped around their necks. Right now, the blanket is only used at academic medical centers. Doctor Weiss wants to create a network to implement the treatment nationwide.