Hypothermia Therapy Shortly After Birth Reduces Risk of Epilepsy

Babies that have sustained oxygen-depriving injuries (perinatal asphyxia) during the birthing process can benefit greatly from prompt administration of hypothermia therapy. Cooling an injured newborn to a below-normal temperature can give brain cells a chance to repair themselves, which stops the damage from spreading and becoming permanent. Hypothermia therapy can prevent or decrease the severity of conditions like cerebral palsy. Recently, it has also been shown to reduce the risk of children developing epilepsy later in life.

A group of researchers led by Marianne Thoresen, a professor at the University of Bristol’s medical school, followed a cohort of infants who had received cooling therapy. They recorded how many babies were diagnosed with epilepsy by the age of two, and again between the ages of four and eight. They also noted the number that were on regular antiepileptic drug treatment. The researchers then compared this cohort of children to records of children with perinatal asphyxia who were born before hypothermia was introduced. They found that these children had lower rates of epilepsy and that much fewer of them were on antiepileptic drugs.

Hypothermia therapy is still a relatively new treatment; this study adds to the growing body of evidence that it can prevent some of the serious, lasting harm to injured babies.

Liu, Xun, et al. “Reduced infancy and childhood epilepsy following hypothermia‐treated neonatal encephalopathy.” Epilepsia (2017).

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