Cool Caps for Babies

Cool Caps for Babies

A cap designed to cool the brains of babies born with oxygen deprivation during birth may prevent brain damage.

Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital (VCH) researchers participated in an international study of the device.

Participants in the study included Canada, New Zealand, USA and the UK. “Cool Cap” is designed to cool the brains of full-term babies who were oxygen-deprived and had signs of brain damage within hours of birth.

The Cool Cap has 40-degree water circulating through it and is placed on a baby’s head within four hours of birth.

The baby wears the cap for 72 hours, then the baby’s temperature is slowly raised again over the following four hours.

The idea is to cool the brain soon after injury to stop cell suicide in the brain. While the cap offered a moderate (10 percent) overall reduction in brain damage, the most promising results have been among babies who suffered moderate damage at birth.

Those affected by motor difficulties, such as cerebral palsy, had brain damage reductions of almost 60 percent. “What is most exciting,” said William F. Walsh, M.D., director of nurseries at the VCH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, “was that at the 18 month follow up, those babies who were determined to have moderate brain damage at birth showed significant reduction in signs of cerebral palsy.”Initial results look promising. The number of moderately brain-injured infants who died was reduced from 39 percent to 25 percent.

Of infants in the control group, 27.8 percent had signs of a severe neuromotor disability like cerebral palsy, compared with 11 percent of babies using the Cool Cap. That represents a 58 percent reduction in motor abnormalities.