Treatment for Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles delivers specialized care to Southern California’s most fragile pediatric patients, including newborns who develop hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Experts at Children’s Hospital work to quickly diagnose and treat HIE.

What Is Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy?

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) occurs when a newborn’s brain does not get enough blood or oxygen, typically around the time of delivery. Decrease in blood supply and oxygen  causes damage to the brain. HIE can differ in degree, from mild to severe, based on the severity and duration of lack of blood flow and oxygen.

Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy Treatment: How We Stand Out

At Children’s Hospital, your baby receives world-class care from expert neurocritical care and neonatal neurologists. Our collaborative team approach ensures the best possible outcome for your baby.

Highlights of our program include:

  • Expertise: Children’s Hospital is home to the few pediatric neurologists in the country with advanced (fellowship) training in neonatal neurology and neurocritical care. Our commitment to clinical excellence ensures your baby receives timely, appropriate therapies.
  • Sophisticated treatments: Your baby has access to research-based therapies, such as therapeutic hypothermia. This treatment provides whole-body cooling via a body wrap to protect the brain by decreasing the energy it needs. During this time, the baby’s  brain activity is monitored using electroencephalogram (EEG) to detect and treat any seizures. We also have ongoing clinical trials involving therapeutic hypothermia, for which your baby may be a candidate.
  • Post-acute care: After completing the cooling treatment, we continue caring for your child in our Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit (NICCU), including reviewing head imaging with the family and treating any other symptoms  such as seizures and abnormalities in muscle tone. These specialized units also provide round-the-clock services including monitoring from specially trained nurses.

Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy Care and Services

Children’s Hospital offers the following treatments and services for HIE:

Emergency assessments

Specialists are available any time of the day or night to care for babies who may have HIE. Experts come together within minutes to perform assessments and confirm a diagnosis. The care team quickly determines which therapies are best for your child.

Therapeutic hypothermia

Therapeutic hypothermia, also called therapeutic cooling, is the main treatment for HIE. This involves cooling a baby’s core body temperature by 3 to 4° C for up to 72 hours. A special blanket with cooling technology enables us to maintain the appropriate temperature. Children’s Hospital is a national leader in neonatal therapeutic hypothermia.


The care team closely monitors your baby’s vital signs throughout the treatment. These include temperature, brain activity, breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.

Rehabilitation Services

Rehabilitation helps your baby with the after-effects of HIE. These may include learning how to feed or perform basic motor skills. Care may include physical, occupational or speech therapy. These are available while the baby is in the NICCU and later, on an outpatient basis.

Family-based services

HIE can affect your entire family, which is why family-based services are available any time you need them. Social workers provide emotional support and coordinate community resources to make life less stressful. Our Child Life specialists use age-appropriate techniques to soothe infants and put older children at ease, especially regarding their siblings in a NICCU setting.

Follow-up care

Our HIE experts maintain an active role in your child’s recovery even after you leave the hospital. They monitor your child’s long-term progress and manage the risk of future complications, including treatment of seizures and movement disorders.