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Lutheran General NICU Quickly Puts Cooling Therapy to Use

Monday October 19, 2009
NICU clinical educator Cheryl Fornowski, RN, BSN, tests a cooling therapy that is being used for treating newborns.
NICU clinical educator Cheryl Fornowski, RN, BSN, tests a cooling therapy that is being used for treating newborns.
(Photo courtesy of Advocate Lutheran General Hospit)
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Nurses at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., didn’t have to wait long to use their training for treating newborns deprived of oxygen during difficult births.

NICU clinical educator Cheryl Fornowski, RN, BSN, says she thought it might take some time before the core group of 20 staff members trained in a cooling therapy called the Blanketrol III Hyper-hypothermia system from Cincinnati Sub-Zero would be put to the test. The therapy is used on newborns suffering moderate to severe hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, which occurs in only 1.5- to 2-per-1,000 live births in the U.S., according to a Lutheran General news release. But all of the eight such births at Lutheran General from December 2008 through mid-July took place in the first part of this year.

“We thought it was going to take forever to get the experience, and it was bing, bing, bing, bing, bing,” says Fornowski, who began the training program at Lutheran General after it was introduced by Raghbir Sinh Benawra, MD, in November. “Every time we turned around we had another infant who qualified for hypothermia treatment. It was kind of nice for our experience and helped in building our confidence in what we were doing and tweaking our protocol.”

The therapy uses temperature-controlled blankets to help prevent or reduce brain damage. A newborn with HIE is placed in a cooling blanket, and a patient probe that measures the baby’s internal temperature is attached to the cooling machine, which helps keep the baby’s temperature within the preset range. Treatment begins within six hours of birth and is completed in three days. After 72 hours, the baby is slowly rewarmed. About 15% to 20% of babies born with moderate to severe HIE will die, and 20% to 25% will be disabled. However, the New England Journal of Medicine reported in 2005 that cooling therapy resulted in an 18% reduction in the rate of death or moderate to severe disability at 18 to 22 months of age.

Fornowski says the nurses at Lutheran General are thrilled to be able to offer cooling therapy to their patients. She hopes to have the entire NICU staff of about 100 people trained by the end of the year.

“They’re very into it, so they were really vested in it,” Fornowski says. We’re really excited about it, and it’s been a great learning experience for everybody.”

Tom Clegg is a member of the editorial team at Nursing Spectrum.


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