ABOUT PREEMIE BRAIN DAMAGE: Oxygen deprivation can cause brain damage, but premature babies are also at risk. Roughly half of early premature births show subtle abnormalities in the brain that may be linked to later developmental problems. Yet it is often difficult to spot this damage early with traditional ultrasound; problems often don't become apparent until around 10 months of age. An MRI scan can help doctors detect brain damage early enough so that therapy can improve an infant's chances of developing normally. The possible causes of brain damage in premature infants are not fully established, but include infection stemming from the wall of the uterus or placenta; the inability of an immature cardiovascular system to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the brain; and an inflammatory response at birth.
ANOTHER MEDICAL USE OF FREEZING: Critical care physicians are using techniques to induce hypothermia in patients just after a cardiac arrest. A cold saline solution is injected into the patient's arm and circulates throughout their body. Meanwhile the patient lies down on a special chilled pad to help the body maintain this cooler temperature. This 24-hour process reduces the body temperature to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, reducing swelling, slowing metabolism and thus decreasing the amount of brain damage that may occur.