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Low-tech innovation enhances birth injury prevention

Doctors in poverty-stricken areas have a new option for reducing the risk of brain damage in oxygen-deprived children. The condition is referred to as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Though placental problems and umbilical knotting can happen during any child delivery, the risks of birth injury and brain damage are compounded in developing areas by malnutrition, anemia and lack of trained delivery personnel. Risks are also greater in developing regions of the world due to lack of expensive medical devices commonly found in Massachusetts and other developed world hospitals.

To get around this problem, undergraduate students with the Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design at Johns Hopkins designed a $40 instrument capable of performing similarly to $12,000 hospital cooling units. The treatment involves reduction of the newborn's temperature by six degrees over three days. Research shows that, if done quickly following birth, brain injury may be prevented.

Students constructed the device, which is called the Cooling Cure, by placing a plastic-lined burlap basket inside a clay pot. The space between basket and pot is filled with a mixture of sand and cold-pack powder. Inclusion of a microprocessor and temperature sensor, which both run on two AAA batteries, allows color-coded monitoring to maintain optimum conditions. Water is added to the outer mixture until the the sensor registers the optimum temperature.

Many mothers and their newborns face medical challenges even when surrounded by teams of professionals using the most expensive equipment. A birth injury caused by doctor negligence can result in physical or cognitive disability, long-term medical and care expenses and other consequences that require compensation. A medical malpractice attorney may be able to help parents of newborns injured in these situations determine whether medical negligence was the cause and assist in recovering compensation.

Source: Futurity, "Low-cost device averts baby brain damage," Phil Sneiderman, March 25, 2013

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