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Why did my baby have cooling in the NICU?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2022 | Firm News

Did your baby have “cooling” in the NICU? Some doctors call this newborn whole body “hypothermic cooling.” Parents often do not understand why their newborn baby had to be cooled in the NICU. Parents may be told differing, even conflicting reasons for why their baby had to have cooling. Medical experts explain that the main reason for hypothermic cooling is the potential for hypoxic ischemic brain injury, or “HIE.” Newborn HIE is brain injury from lack of blood flow and oxygen to the baby’s brain. Cooling can help counteract this. Cooling literally involves taking steps to carefully lower the newborn baby’s temperature, hopefully within the first six hours. The baby is placed on a cooling blanket that can circulate cool water. Other times, such as during transport, passive cooling may be initiated by not having the baby subject to any external heat sources, again in an effort to slowly lower the baby’s temperature.

There are criteria that usually must be met before a doctor orders hypothermic cooling for a baby in the NICU. In a nutshell, the criteria for cooling a newborn depend on the baby’s neurological condition at birth. Shortly after delivery, the decision is made (or should be made) based on things like the baby’s umbilical cord blood pH levels being too acidotic, if there was a suspected acute event during labor and delivery, if the baby’s APGAR scores were low, if there are seizures and other depressed neurological findings. While this can sound complicated, it boils down to a situation where there is very real concern for an HIE brain injury, possibly from the labor and delivery process. The neurological findings necessitating cooling in the NICU can be acute in nature, meaning they are recent and new as opposed to being chronic and longstanding, which can point to the need for cooling having been caused during the labor and delivery timeframe. This is especially true for cooling situations with low umbilical cord pH, low initial APGAR, and situations where baby had to be resuscitated at birth. The bottom line is that cooling can be necessitated in newborn cases where there is concern for brain injury, hypoxia ischemic brain injury, possibly from the labor and delivery process.

The need for cooling due to concern for a labor and delivery HIE brain injury may not be accurately explained to the parents, sometimes out of concern for liability exposure on the part of healthcare providers as to their fellow doctors and the hospital. Doctors may be vague or evasive and not really answer the parents’ questions accurately on why cooling was ordered. This can be a good indication that something from labor and delivery is suspected in causing a possible HIE brain injury to the newborn requiring cooling in the NICU. This can be backed up with imaging findings, including ultrasounds and MRIs of the baby’s brain. Sometimes, despite a radiology report finding global HIE, parents may even be told that the injury could be from something long ago during pregnancy such as a stroke. This too can be a sign that the real issue is something connected to labor and delivery as healthcare providers in situations like this may try to protect each other and the hospitals at which they practice.

At Mahoney Law in Idaho, our birth injury law firm practice centers on these types of cases, particularly where cooling was ordered for the baby. Our birth medical malpractice attorneys work with highly regarded medical experts to review the records of a mother’s pregnancy, labor, and baby’s delivery and NICU course to determine what really happened in terms of why your baby needed cooling. In meritorious cases of medical malpractice leading to labor and delivery related HIE requiring cooling in the NICU, we take the proper steps to protect the family’s legal interests and work to obtain the family, and most importantly, the newborn, the monetary compensation needed for future life care, as well as money damages for the profound impact a labor and delivery medical malpractice birth injury can have on a family. For a free, confidential, no obligation case review in situations where your baby underwent cooling in the NICU, possibly due to labor and delivery medical malpractice, please reach out to the medical malpractice lawyers here at Mahoney Law here in Idaho.

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