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The Intensive Care Unit for neonates at King Khalid University Hospital, King Saud University, is one of the most important medical centers in the Middle East in that possesses of the know-how on the application of the modern ways for the treatment of birth asphyxiation. Figures indicate that more than 40 cases, during the past few years, had been treated all of which were reported to suffer from lack of oxygen.
The application of this type of treatment in King Khalid University Hospital began since 2005; it was the first hospital to apply it in Saudi Arabia under the supervision of Dr. Turki Al-Kharfy Professor of Pediatrics and Neonatal Medicine Consultant.
The Neonatal Medical Care Research Chair, King Saud University, has played a positive role in fostering and supporting this new therapeutic method.
Dr. Khalid Al-Faleh the supervisor of the Chair, & Assistant Professor of pediatrics Deptt. at King Khalid University Hospital, explained the nature of birth asphyxiation and the extensive damage caused by it, saying that birth asphyxiation means lack of oxygen supply in the brain during or at the moment of birth. It is one of the most important causes of death or future disability of newborns. Al-Faleh noted that this occurs once in every one thousand births in Western countries and at a much greater rate in the developing countries because of lack of care required during pregnancy and childbirth, and until recently, physicians at Newborns Intensive Care Units remained helpless towards such difficult cases and which, in spite of all the efforts to provide intensive care end up in the death or mind/ mobility disability in more than half of the cases.
However, with the progress of modern science, studies conducted over the past five years, revealed that such cases might be saved if treated in the first few critical hours by cooling after birth.The biggest of these studies published by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the United States which included more than 250 newborns who suffered from lack of oxygen, has demonstrated that treatment by cooling protects –by will of God- from death or permanent disability of one out of six children treated in such a way.
With these encouraging results, cooling became widespread in many of Intensive Care Units for newborns in the United States over the past two years, while some preferred to wait for the results of the other two studies in the same area in both Europe and Australia, and which will be published during this year -by the Grace of God Almighty.-
What then is meant by cooling?
Dr. Al-Kharfy says that the birth cooling means the reduction of temperature of the newborns from the natural degrees (37 degrees Celsius) to about 33-34 degrees Celsius, starting from the first hours immediately after delivery, for three days, whereas this method could be made by either cooling the head only or by cooling the whole-body through automatically cooled blankets or by placing bags of cold water on both sides of the affected child.
On the third day of the completion of the cooling process, the child's temperature will gradually be returned to the normal position.
On the role of Neonatal Medical Care Research Chair in the face of morbidity dangers that could face the newborns in the Kingdom, Dr. Al-Faleh said that the task of the Chair is the application of objectives by focusing on studying the reality of newborn children in Saudi society and improving this reality through studies and consultations which care for them be healthy, sound, and safe models that becomes a nucleus for the future of the nation.
He pointed out that the objectives of the Neonatal Medical Care Research Chair, is divided into several themes, the first one is about the mortality of newborn birth asphyxiation in the Kingdom which is done by organizing a survey on the current rate of neonatal mortality in addition to birth asphyxiation in all the Regions in the kingdom and carry out a study on the causes leading to such situations and ways to avoid them and then propose a specific mechanism for a follow up and treatment of high risk pregnant women in specialized centers for such conditions and also suggest a mechanism for the transfer of newborn children with critical situations to highly qualified Newborn Intensive Care Units and propose a program to train pediatricians and nursing staff so as to be in a position to deal with such situations during the first critical hours after birth and suggest a mechanism appropriate for the application of cold treatment as a successful treatment of cases of birth asphyxiation and the prevention of its complications resulting in future permanent disability.