SJW - First in Tampa Bay to Treat Newborn Babies With Therapeutic Hypothermia

September 02, 2014

St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital is First in Tampa Bay to Treat Newborn Babies With Therapeutic Hypothermia While En Route from Outlying Hospitals

TAMPA, Fla. (September 2, 2014) – Newborn babies who may have health concerns after birth, perhaps from a lack of blood or oxygen to the brain, may now have a better chance of normal survival thanks to a treatment known as “therapeutic hypothermia” or “cooling.”

The process works by placing the baby on a special cooling mattress that carefully brings the baby’s temperature down to about 92 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the baby reaches the hospital, the cooling process continues for three days, while doctors monitor the baby’s condition. After 72 hours, the babies are slowly warmed back up, and some may even leave the hospital within a week to 10 days. Cooling is currently the only medical therapy that reduces brain damage and improves an infant’s chances of normal survival.

The “cooling” must take place within the first six hours of birth. However, recent data suggests that it’s best to begin the treatment as soon as possible, which means offering it in transit gives newborns an added advantage in avoiding brain injury.

“Active Cooling” during transport is a treatment in which the Neonatal Pediatric Transport team induces hypothermia in the ambulance or helicopter while transporting the child to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital. This provides better control of the baby’s temperature and ensures the baby reaches target cooling temperature quickly and safely.

A good candidate for therapeutic hypothermia is an infant who:

  • Weighs at least 1800 grams (approximately 4 pounds)
  • Reached at least 35 weeks gestation
  • Has some abnormal finding on exam such as seizures, low tone, breathing difficulty
  • Has a mother who suffered from seizure or pre-eclampsia
  • Suffered a detached placenta

Therapeutic hypothermia may have saved the life of Audrey Seymour. She had difficulty breathing and showed signs of possible brain injury shortly after being born at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater. The cooling process, which would now begin in transit, took place three hours later when she arrived at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital. She remained in an induced hypothermic state for three days while doctors monitored her brain activity, performed blood tests and conducted imaging studies. Eventually she began breathing on and eating on her own. Audrey is now 20-months-old and though she suffers from mild hearing loss, she is meeting her developmental milestones.

Large clinical trials have shown no adverse effects on the baby and early initiation of therapeutic hypothermia decreased the number of deaths and severe disability caused by lack of oxygen or blood to the brain at birth. St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital has used the “cooling” technique in the NICU since 2012 and is the second in the state to offer active cooling in their neonatal ambulance and helicopter.