March of Dimes honors Maine doctor and her work to cool babies to prevent brain damage

Cooling babies to prevent brain damage

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Despite all of our medical advances, sometimes things go wrong during childbirth. And when they do, the baby may be deprived of oxygen.

That causes brain damage and can lead to delayed development or even cerebral palsy. It happens in two to 10 of every 1,000 births.

Researchers have known for years now that if you can cool the baby's body, you can slow or even stop the damage to the brain. But how do you tell which babies need to be cooled?

Dr. Alexa Craig, a pediatric neurologist at Maine Medical Center, has come up with a system for diagnosing newborns — one that can be used in small hospitals all over the country.

When a child was deprived of oxygen during childbirth, they often don't breathe right after birth. They're not crying, and they don't turn pink right away. A physical exam and testing the umbilical cord blood will reveal other indicators.

Dr. Craig has taken those and other descriptors and assigned a scoring system to them, making it easier for doctors and nurses in delivery rooms to figure out whether a baby needs to be cooled. That means getting them to a hospital with a cooling system. Maine Med is one of only two in Maine that has one.
     
"There is something about when your brain doesn't have enough oxygen," Craig explained. "Bringing the temperature down slows down the metabolic rate so that it doesn't use the oxygen it has left as quickly and the injury does not seem to be as extensive."

The babies are put on a cooling mat for 72 hours. Their body temperatures are lowered to 93 degrees.

With her scoring system, more brain damage is being detected and stopped in its tracks.

Dr. Craig has traveled all over Maine teaching other doctors what to look for. She is working on a grant that would use telemedicine to allow neurologists like herself to offer their expertise from afar by getting to see the baby on a video screen. That grant would come from the March of Dimes, which funds research like hers, designed to save and improve the lives of babies.

The March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction is Thursday night. Cindy Williams will be emceeing the event. Click here for more information.

But this year, you can BID ON-LINE!

The silent auction closes at midnight on Monday, Oct. 3. To see what's up for grab and place your bid, click here.

Text BABY to 71760 or visit http://text2bid.net/web/baby and bid bid bid to help babies! Items can be picked up, delivered, mailed, or claimed at the event on Oct. 6!

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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