Chemical reactions depend on temperature

Chemical reactions in the brain of a baby being born with a shortage of oxygen take some time to generate the damaging chemicals that can cause brain damage and developmental problems. A ‘cooling cap’ slows the build up of damaging chemicals after birth and allows time for remedial action.

Rates of cerebral palsy in babies at risk due to oxygen shortage during birth who were fitted with the cap were found to be cut by half. About 1000 babies are at risk each year in the UK, but this figure is higher in developing countries.

The cap cools the baby’s head by 3 to 4 degrees C. The research sample of 234 babies considered ‘at risk’ was split in half, one group using the new cap for 72 hours with slow rewarming and standard care after that and the other group using standard treatments. 20% of the capped babies showed no improvement – these babies had the most severe oxygen shortage as measured by electrical activity in the brain.

The maths

  1. Implicit awareness of chemical rate kinetics by the researchers lead to the hypothesis
  2. Classic statistical trial shows that new treatment is effective

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