Therapeutic hypothermia is an effective way to prevent brain damage in newborns deprived of oxygen due to umbilical cord entanglement, anemia, or other causes of cerebral hypoperfusion. Modern hospitals have incubator-like cooling devices that maintain a specific temperature while the baby recovers, but these are much too expensive for many parts of the world. Students at Johns Hopkins have designed a cheap alternative costing about $40 that promises to reduce a newborn’s temperature by about six degrees for three consecutive days.
The Cooling Cure, as the system is called, relies on instant ice-pack powder for temperature reduction and features temperature sensors that help caregivers maintain proper cooling.
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With an eye toward simplicity and low cost, the students designed a cooler made of a clay pot and a plastic-lined basket, separated by a layer of sand and urea-based powder. This powder is the type used in instant cold-packs that help reduce swelling. To activate the baby-cooling unit, water is added to the mixture of sand and powder, causing a chemical reaction that draws heat away from the upper basket, which cradles the child. The chemical would not come into direct contact with the newborn.
The unit’s batteries power a microprocessor and sensors that track the child’s internal and skin temperatures. Small lights flash red if the baby’s temperature is too hot, green if the temperature is correct and blue if the child is too cold. By viewing the lights, the baby’s nurse or a family member could add water to the sand to increase cooling. If the child is too cool, the caregiver could lift the child away from the chilling surface until the proper temperature is restored.
Study in Medical Devices: Evidence and Research: Cost-effective therapeutic hypothermia treatment device for hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy