Life-saving baby blanket

September 16, 2011 2:48:45 PM PDT
It's what any expectant mom and dad want most -- a healthy, normal baby. But when little ones have trouble transitioning from the womb to the outside world, their lives may be at serious risk. Now, a new treatment is giving these babies a brighter future.

He's only seven weeks old, but Tyler Evans is one tough little man.

"One of the doctors said he's gone through more during his first week on this earth than most of us would ever go through in our lifetime," Ken Evans, Tyler's father, said.

Tiffany's pregnancy was normal, but from the minute Tyler was born, he was in trouble.

"Once he came out, immediately, I saw the cord around his neck, and it was extremely tight," Evans said.

Tyler was rushed to St. Louis Children's Hospital, where a new procedure called therapeutic hypothermia has become a game-changer for these at-risk newborns.

"This is a big deal. We've not had anything specific for the brain for decades," said Amit M. Mathur, MBBS, MD Associate Prof. of Pediatrics Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis Medical Director, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit St. Louis Children's Hospital.

With continuous neuro-physiologic monitoring, newborns spend 72 hours wrapped in a special blanket that lowers their body temperature three to four degrees.

"And what that results in is a decrease in the metabolic demand for the brain, which has been shown to be protective when done over three days," Mathur said.

The newborn cooling treatment can reduce the chances of severe brain injury or death by 25 percent. For Tyler?

"The first MRI was fine, and that's where they find the major head trauma or any brain damage, and he was fine. Everything was normal," Tiffany Evans, his mom, said.

"He's doing awesome," Ken Evans said.

Now, this little man is on his way to a healthy future.

"He's great. He's meeting all his milestones on time, and we still consider him a great little miracle," Evans said.

Several international studies found the sooner the cooling treatment begins after birth, the greater the potential benefit for at-risk babies. Specialists at St. Louis Children's Hospital are now teaching neonatal teams around the country the procedure.