ACOG Green Journal: Neonatal Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy and Hypothermia Treatment

Neonatal Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy and Hypothermia Treatment

Neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is an important clinical entity because it is associated with death and long-term disability, including cognitive impairment, cerebral palsy, seizures, and neurosensory deficits. Over the past 40 years, there has been an intensive search to identify therapies to improve the prognosis of neonates with HIE. Hypothermia treatment represents the culmination of laboratory investigations including small and large animal studies, followed by pilot human studies, and, finally, randomized controlled trials to establish efficacy and safety. Clinical trials have demonstrated that hypothermia treatment reduces mortality and improves early childhood outcome among survivors. Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy is a multi-system disease process that requires intensive medical support for brain monitoring and monitoring of non–central nervous system organ dysfunction. Treatment must be conducted in a level III or IV neonatal intensive care unit with infrastructure for an integrated approach to care for critically ill neonates. Hypothermia treatment is the first and currently the only therapy to improve outcomes for neonates with HIE and indicates that HIE is modifiable. However, outcomes likely can be improved further. Hypothermia treatment has accelerated investigation of other therapies to combine with hypothermia. It has also stimulated a more intensive approach to brain monitoring, which allows earlier intervention for complications. Finally, HIE and hypothermia treatment negatively influences the psychological state of affected families, and there is growing recognition of the importance of trauma-informed principles to guide medical professionals.