Access & Transport Center uses “active cooling” to save neonatal lives in the field

By: Albert Antonio, D.O., medical director, neonatal transport, Access & Transport Center, MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach

Most community medical centers are not equipped to provide specialized care for a critically ill premature infant. To ensure the highest level of care, MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach has a team available 24/7 to bring critically ill infants to the hospital, with an ambulance equipped with the latest technology to begin treating infants in transit.

The Miller Children’s & Women’s Access & Transport Center is a comprehensive multi-specialty program that transports more than 1,200 children from surrounding hospitals each year with various medical conditions, including known genetic conditions prior to birth or even when an injury occurs at birth.

Recently, Miller Children’s & Women’s Access & Transport Center expanded its in-transit capabilities to care for a common birth injury that many community hospitals are unable to address.

Newborns can experience a birth injury called, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). HIE is a type of brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation and limited blood flow. In some cases, therapeutic hypothermia, or “active cooling,” is used to improve neurological outcomes and reduces stabilization and recovery time. This treatment involves cooling the body’s temperature within six hours of birth. Cooling lowers the patient’s risk of brain injury from lack of oxygen, and is done through a special mattress or blanket, or simple cooling devices, like cold packs.

Since this treatment is time sensitive, it’s important to begin cooling as quickly as possible, but active cooling is not available at all hospitals. Miller Children’s & Women’s Access & Transport Center recently added active cooling to its services in its transport ambulance – allowing the care team to begin therapeutic hypothermia as soon as a baby is picked up from a referring hospital.

Upon arrival at Miller Children’s & Women’s, the infant is admitted to the level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Level IV – the highest level available – designation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is given to hospitals who meet strict regulatory criteria to provide the necessary care for the most critically ill and extremely premature babies, who often weigh less than 2 lbs. at birth.

When emergent neonatal or high-risk pregnancy care is required, the Miller Children’s & Women’s Access & Transport Center is available 24/7 to provide specialized care.

For more information, visit millerchildrens.org/Firsts.

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