A new piece of equipment at Sanford could help the tiniest of babies in a big way. It's called a cooling blanket, and it protects the brains of infants who are dealing with a lack of oxygen by decreasing their body temperature.
When a baby is born early, it can lead to health issues and trouble breathing.
"If those oxygen levels get low enough, they can sustain fairly significant brain damage. That can result in early problems with obtundation, with seizure activity, and later on with neurodevelopmental disabilities," Sanford Neonatologist Dr. Dennis Stevens said.
But thanks to a new piece of equipment at Sanford called a cooling blanket, babies dealing with a lack of oxygen could have fewer health problems. It could even save lives.
"The studies also have not shown that the survivors have increased morbidity. So, the babies that are surviving as a result of this are not necessarily in worse shape because it's been used," Stevens said.
The blanket decreases a baby's temperature to 93 degrees for three days. That prevents brain injuries by decreasing the oxygen needs of brain cells.
"We'd prefer not to ever have to use it at all because we'd prefer not to have to deal with these types of issues. But, the good news is we have it available in those cases where we may be able to help the baby," Stevens said.
The equipment changes the way doctors care for babies. Just a few years ago they weren't able to cool the baby down and only offered supportive care.
"A lot of what we do in neonatology is supportive care, just trying to fix what's wrong. But things like brain cooling come up from time to time as ways to make it better than just letting nature take its case," Stevens said.
Stevens estimates they'll use the blanket around once a month. But if even one life is saved or improved, it's worth it.
"It's very good to have as much as we can to care for the babies here in South Dakota," Stevens said.
The cooling blanket is just one piece of equipment the Children's Miracle Network has helped buy to improve the health of children of all ages. This year's CMN Special broadcast aired Thursday night, but you can still donate by visiting the websites below.
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