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University students obtain patent on life-saving invention

Oxygen deprivation can cause serious complications and brain damage in newborns, and sometimes it is fatal. Known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, this oxygen deprivation can arise from pregnancy complications such as a twisted umbilical cord and from birth injury suffered during delivery. Approximately 50 percent of newborns developing this condition do not survive, and the remaining newborns frequently suffer from cerebral palsy and other forms of brain damage.

The effects of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy can be reduced by cooling techniques that reduce the newborn's core body temperature. The cost of providing this cooling care has been too expensive or unavailable for medical practitioners in poor, developing or remote areas of the world. In these areas, medical professionals have resorted to the use of fans, cold water bottles and other rudimentary techniques to achieve the extended cooling necessary to save lives and reduce brain damage.

A recent invention by a group of biomechanical engineering students may drastically improve the ability of professionals to treat this condition. Known as the Cooling Cure, the students' invention uses inexpensive and widely available products, including batteries, clay pots, water and sand, to create a bassinet-like cooling unit for oxygen-deprived newborns. The Cooling Cure costs only $40, is easy to use and is capable of a 6-degrees-Fahrenheit reduction in body temperature for up to three days. This technology is capable of bringing life-changing care to newborns in remote and poor regions.

Oxygen deprivation before or during birth may have a significant impact on a newborn's survival and quality of life and may expose a family to a lifetime of medical expenses. When birth injuries are caused by medical mistakes or the failure to properly care for oxygen-deprived newborns, medical malpractice attorneys in Texas may help families seek financial compensation.

Source: Futurity, "Low-cost device averts baby brain damage", Phil Sneiderman, March 25, 2013

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