What is cooling therapy?

Published on June 6th, 2019 by Christina Echegaray.

Summer 2019

Former Pediatric Neurology chief resident Siddharth Jain, MD, uses a doll to demonstrate how a newborn placed on a cooling blanket would be monitored. Photo by Susan Urmy.

For two decades pediatric neurologists and neonatologists in Vanderbilt’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) have researched brain cooling therapy as a treatment option for newborns who have suffered from oxygen deprivation and to understand what brain cooling therapy can achieve.

Vanderbilt began participating in studies on a cool cap in 1999. Use of a cooling cap within six hours became the standard of care when an otherwise healthy, full-term infant experiences a serious lack of oxygen, called anoxic brain injury. The therapy uses cool water to bring the temperature of the brain down about five degrees. Vanderbilt took part in the initial studies of the cooling cap, which was found to reduce serious long-term brain damage and death by about one-third.

In 2012, a switch was made to a cooling blanket instead of a cap. The blanket is as effective in its brain-protecting capacity, but it offers researchers an opportunity to better assess what is happening in the brain as it cools.