Birth Asphyxia: Weather-Predicting Technology May Help Oxygen-Deprived Neonates To Survive

By OIivia Etienne, Parent Herald April 11, 08:21 pm
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About 10,000 neonates are birthed with asphyxia, or the lack of oxygen in the blood.
(Photo : Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

A tool originally used to predict weather may be the answer to infants suffering from lack of oxygen at birth. Pediatric researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center specializing in asphyxia or oxygen deprivation developed wavelet analysis technology previously used to predict long-term weather conditions like El Nino.

Specialist and associate professor Dr. Lina Chalak studied the tool on how it was able to measure the brain's physiological parameters. Per Science Daily, the technology helped in seeing real-time images of brain's blood flow and nerve cell activity and this can indicate if an infant is still in need of further treatment from asphyxia.

The analytic tool produces heat maps to identify if the neuronal activity is synchronized with brain perfusion. Without knowing this, doctors cripple in the dark on whether the initial treatments for asphyxia are working or not.

Moreover, wavelet analysis technology served as a game-changer for neonatal care because there was not enough way to accurately know how infants respond to the treatment. In the past, oxygen-deprived babies were untreatable, except 10 years ago when researchers discovered that core body temperature was a vital factor to determine an infant's state after suffering asphyxia.

Wrapping an infant with cooling blankets is an immediate pediatric care protocol for asphyxia babies and this procedure unfortunately does not work 100 percent of the time. With the help of wave analysis technology, pediatric doctors are able to see the brain's neurovascular coupling.

If the images in wavelet analysis technology show larger red spots on heat maps, then it indicates that the treatments are working. Otherwise, an advance care is needed to be administered immediately.

Asphyxia occurs in four out of 1,000 full-term births, Seattle Children's Hospital said. The condition is more common among infants born prematurely.

Lack of oxygen damages the body into two stages. Within minutes of asphyxia, cells are damaged due to the insufficient supply of oxygen and blood flow. The more advanced damage of asphyxia called "reperfusion injury" occurs when normal blood flow and oxygen levels are retained but the cells have been damaged from toxins. This can last for weeks, and can eventually lead to cerebral palsy, ADHD and even infant death.

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