Elliot Health System Offers Therapeutic Hypothermia Treatment for Neonatal Encephalopathy

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Elliot Health System is one of only two hospitals in New Hampshire that offers therapeutic hypothermia treatment for babies suffering from neonatal encephalopathy.

Neonatal encephalopathy is a syndrome best described as abnormal or disturbed neurological function (brain function) in a newborn baby that may appear to health care providers and parents as excessive sleepiness, decreased body movements, perhaps an inability to breath without assistance, and even seizures.

Neonatal encephalopathy occurs in up to six of 1,000 live births. There can be multiple causes, including a difficult delivery or extraction or problems with the maternal placenta like a placenta abruption.

At the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Elliot Hospital, we’re equipped with the most up-to-date technology to help care for babies suffering from neonatal encephalopathy.

Since 2013, The Elliot has been performing therapeutic hypothermia—the standard of care for babies who have neonatal encephalopathy. “We have cooling blankets which we place the babies on, ideally within the first six hours of life. Research has shown that by lowering the core body temperature, that reduces the metabolic demand of the brain tissue and thereby helps to reduce or prevent ongoing injury from the encephalopathy,” explains neonatologist Matthew Ryzewski, DO, from The Elliot’s NICU.

The Elliot recently acquired a portable cooling blanket that is attached to the NICU’s transporter. That means if a baby who is at risk or is suffering from neonatal encephalopathy is transferred to The Elliot from another hospital, our providers can pick them up and place them on the cooling blanket and begin treatment on the way to The Elliot.

Dr. Ryzewski says, “The NICU is very proud to have this program and we’re very happy to be offering this to babies born here and babies transported to us for specialty care. If there is a potentially ill baby anywhere in the state, we can pick them up and offer this therapy to them.”