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Doctors 'freeze' baby to correct heart rate

Baby in neonatal intensive care. Photo via Wikipedia.

Doctors saved a newborn baby’s life by trying an unconventional method to correct his heart rate after  standard medical treatments failed.

Claire Ives was seven months pregnant when she discovered that her baby’s heart rate was 300 beats per minute, almost double the normal 160 beats per minute.  The baby, named Edward, was delivered by emergency cesarean section at the University College London Hospital five weeks early.

Edward had supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) which was caused by improper electrical impulses in the heart which can cause the heart to have an irregular rapid heartbeat.  SVT causes the heart to beat too fast which can prevent the heart from filling up with enough blood to pump to the rest of the internal organs.

After Edward was born, his heart rate began to increase and doctors tried the usual treatments of shocking the heart and administering different medications.  Nothing worked for Edward.

“We’d gone through all the usual maneuvers that usually work in babies, giving drugs…trying to shock the heart, the baby and get [a healthy heart rate back],” said Edward’s neonatal doctor, Dr. Nicola Robertson.

The doctors decided to try and lower Edward’s body temperature in an attempt to slow his heart rate.  They began to use a cold gel blanket to lower Edward’s body temperature to 91 degrees in an effort to protect his internal organs and slow the electrical circuit in his heart.  As Edward was warmed the next day, his heart began to race again.

The doctors lowered Edward’s heart rate a second time and administered medication.  When they re-warmed him, they only brought his body temperature up a half a degree every 12 hours.  When Edward’s body temperature was back to normal, his heart rate remained stable.

“It was horrible to see him lying there freezing in nothing but a nappy.  He was heavily sedated so he didn’t move much, and he was cold to the touch – it looked like he was dead.  All I wanted to do was scoop him up and give him a warm cuddle.  I just had to keep reminding myself that it was saving his life,” said Edward’s mother Claire.

Edward is now a healthy six-month old baby and is being monitored in case the irregular heartbeat returns.  It is unlikely that Edward will have to be hospitalized again for the SVT.

Source: Yahoo! News