Hypothermia Treatment (Whole Body Cooling)
For Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
An Information Guide for Parents
Your baby has signs of a very serious and
sometimes life threatening condition called
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE).
HIE is when there is less than normal
amounts of oxygen (hypoxia) or reduced
blood flow (ischemia) delivered to the brain.
This can lead to brain injury. The treatment
your doctors recommend is called
“Hypothermia” or “Whole Body Cooling”.
Hypothermia treatment means cooling the
body on purpose. Cooling the body slows
the metabolism (or work) of the body and
can decrease injury to the brain.
This handout will provide you with useful
information about HIE and its treatment.
Please review this information and talk to
your doctors and nurses about any questions
or concerns you may have.
When does HIE occur?
HIE can happen at any time – before birth,
during delivery or after birth.
Why is it important to treat my baby for
Lack of oxygen and reduced blood supply to
the brain can cause brain injury. This brain
injury can be mild, moderate or severe and
recovery can vary. Long term effects of this
injury can lead to problems learning,
thinking, and speaking (called “cognitive
problems”) later in childhood. It can also
lead to problems with walking or
coordination. This is sometimes seen as
cerebral palsy (called “motor problems”).
Why offer hypothermia treatment for
For some babies, this treatment will improve
the long term effects the injury may have on
the brain. Studies have shown that babies
treated with hypothermia shortly after birth
have less brain injury and fewer cognitive
and motor problems. We will follow your
baby’s development over time to learn how
your baby’s cognitive and motor skills are
What other organs are affected besides
Babies who have HIE may develop
problems with breathing, bleeding, and with
their heart, liver, or kidneys because of the
lack of oxygen and blood to these organs.
As a result, your baby may have a slow heart
rate, low blood pressure, or worsening of
We will provide treatment in the NICU to
support these problems.
How is hypothermia treatment provided
ξ Your baby will lie on a special cooling
blanket that has water running through
it. The water temperature can be
adjusted to warm or cool the body. We
begin treatment within 6 hours of your
baby being born and cool your baby for
3days (72 hours).
ξ We use a special thermometer placed in
your baby’s esophagus to constantly
monitor your baby’s body temperature.
Your baby will be cooled to about 92º F.
Normal body temperature is 98.6º F.
ξ Once the 72 hour cooling period is
complete, we will slowly re-warm your
baby to normal body temperature. This
will take about 6 hours.
ξ Your baby may need special IV access
for monitoring, treatment, and nutrition.
ξ Your baby may need blood products,
and medicine. These would be used to
keep your baby comfortable, treat
seizures and potential infection, and
maintain normal blood pressure.
ξ Some babies with HIE need the help of a
ξ Your baby will be unable to eat any milk
feedings during the cooling process. It is
important for you to pump your breasts
and store the breast milk in the NICU for
your baby to eat once his or her
treatment is complete.
ξ Your baby’s physical features may
appear different during cooling. The
skin may be pale or blotchy and may feel
cool to the touch. You will be able to
touch your baby during cooling;
however holding your baby may
increase his or her temperature. For that
reason, your baby needs to remain in bed
during the cooling and rewarming
What other tests may be performed on
Your baby will have testing done to assess
brain function. An EEG will look at the
brain’s electrical activity and possible signs
of seizures that are common in babies with
HIE. Special brain imaging, called MRI,
will look at your baby’s brain structure and
the extent of possible brain injury. These
findings, along with physical exams, will
help us determine long-term effects of the
What happens after treatment?
After cooling treatment, we will work with
you to learn your baby’s cares and any
special needs your baby may have. Once
your baby is ready to leave the NICU, you
will work closely with your primary care
provider and other specialists. In addition to
primary care visits, we will also assess your
baby’s progress in our newborn follow-up
program. This program is a clinic located at
the Waisman Center. At this clinic we will
look at your baby’s development over time,
and can recognize additional support your
baby may need.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 6/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7650