Cooling blankets improve outcomes for newborns at risk

NICU Blanket Photo

While newborns typically thrive when swaddled in a warm blanket, certain babies born after a long duration without oxygen have better clinical outcomes if they are wrapped in cooling blankets for the first three days of their lives.

Whole body cooling technology, based on the phenomenon of near-drowning victims who survive after being immersed in frigid water, soon will be used at Tucson Medical Center’s newborn intensive care unit, thanks to a grant from the TMC Foundation, Children’s Miracle Network.

Water circulating through the blankets maintains a 92.3 F temperature for babies who have experienced what’s known as hypoxia, which can be the result of strangulation by the umbilical cord or other conditions that interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the baby.

The cooling blanket essentially induces a mild state of hypothermia that reduces brain swelling, inflammation and activity, better protecting cerebral function and reducing the long-term risk of mortality and neurological deficits.

“There has been stunning success with this technology, which is rapidly becoming the standard of care for babies born deprived of oxygen, because it gives the brain additional time to heal,” said Elizabeth Burcin, a nurse clinical educator. Burcin said TMC is pleased to offer the technology, since babies experiencing oxygen deprivation should have their temperatures reduced within six hours of birth.

After 72 hours, the system also safely and systematically helps bring each baby’s body temperature back to normal range.

National statistics indicate the condition, which is often unanticipated, affects about 4,000 babies each year.

TMC’s newborn intensive care unit has long been well-respected in its care for newborns, but evolving medical technology and the community’s generosity ensures we are even better equipped to care for children in our community,” said Michael Duran, TMC’s vice president and chief development officer.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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