Body Cooling Treatment

Therapeutic hypothermia, also called whole body cooling, is a medical treatment for newborns who are fewer than 6 hours old who have experienced a lack of oxygen and/or blood flow (hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or HIE) to the brain and other organs before or during labor and delivery. HIE can lead to permanent neurological damage, as it destroys brain cells, or sometimes even death.

Studies have shown that babies who were oxygen deprived around birth and are treated with therapeutic hypothermia have a better chance of surviving without brain injury.

How it works

Therapeutic hypothermia lowers a newborn's normal body temperature of 98.6°F to about 92.3°F – and keeps this lower temperature stable for 72 hours. At the end of the treatment, your baby’s body will slowly be re-warmed back to 98.6°F.

Side effects may include:

  • An irregular or slow heartbeat
  • Increased oxygen utilization
  • Skin irritation

The medical professionals in our Newborn Center will closely watch your baby's comfort level and all other aspects of care throughout the treatment. To reduce discomfort and shivering during hypothermia treatment, infants are provided low-dose pain medication. As our partners in your baby’s care, please notify us of any concerns you may have.

Whole body cooling during ambulance transport

Texas Children’s Hospital is the first and only pediatric hospital in Texas to offer active and regulated whole body cooling for infants with HIE during ambulance transport from smaller hospitals to our level IV neonatal intensive care unit. Providing safe active whole body cooling during transport allows cooling to begin much sooner, potentially saving more brain cells. This is critical to improving long-term outcomes and decreasing severe neurological damage that can lead to intellectual disability, cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

After treatment

After hypothermia treatment, we will continue to monitor your baby and will perform an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to evaluate for any brain injury. While this treatment has been known to help, brain injury is still a possibility.

Once home, you will regularly receive questionnaires asking specific questions about your baby’s development. Your feedback will give our medical team insight into your baby’s health and brain development. Further, and most importantly,  your baby will be followed up with periodically by pediatric neurodevelopmental experts, who will perform a baby IQ test at 18 months of age. These developmental follow-up appointments are very important so that the team can provide guidance on developmental therappies that might benefit your baby.

For more information about criteria for therapeutic hypothermia, or to arrange for transport, call 832-824-5550 or 877-770-5555.