(HealthDay News) — The benefits of moderate hypothermia following perinatal asphyxia can be seen in middle childhood, according to a study published in the July 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Denis Azzopardi, MD, from King’s College London, and colleagues randomly assigned 325 newborns with asphyxial encephalopathy (born at a gestational age of ≥36 weeks) to receive standard care or standard care with hypothermia (rectal temperature of 33–34 degrees Celsius for 72 hours within six hours after birth). Neurocognitive function was evaluated at 6–7 years of age.

The researchers found that 52% of children in the hypothermia group vs. 39% in the control group survived with an IQ score of ≥85 (relative risk, 1.31; P=0.04). Similar proportions of children died in both groups. Survival without neurologic abnormalities was seen in more children in the hypothermia group than in the control group (45 vs. 28%; relative risk, 1.60). Survivors in the hypothermia group had significant reductions in the risk of cerebral palsy (21 vs. 36%; P=0.03) and the risk of moderate or severe disability (22 vs. 37%; P=0.03), compared to controls. The hypothermia survivors also had significantly better motor-function scores.

“Moderate hypothermia after perinatal asphyxia resulted in improved neurocognitive outcomes in middle childhood,” the authors write.

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