Hypothermia Whole Body Cooling

Should complications arise during a delivery, Children’s National Medical Center serves as the regional referral center for whole-body cooling when newborns experience a hypoxic-ischemic (HI) injury. Within hours of your baby’s birth, Children’s neonatal team is with you and your baby to provide in-depth care and attention.

Innovative Care for Our Smallest Patients 

Whole body hypothermia provides cerebral (brain) protection for newborns affected by hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). This complication occurs when there is a reduced level of oxygen (hypoxia) or blood flow (ischemia) to the baby's brain or body.
Children’s whole-body cooling places newborns on a water-filled cooling mattress to reduce body temperature to 92F for 3 days, which is long enough to interrupt brain injury. After the 3 days, your baby recovers to a normal body temperature in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with continuous EEG (electroencephalogram) neuromonitoring.
Children’s cooling program follows the National Institute of Health’s Neonatal Network protocol, which demonstrates a reduction in death or serious disability for infants who develop serious neonatal encephalopathy within 6 hours of birth.

Our Multidisciplinary Team 

Under the direction of Billie L. Short, MD, Division Chief, Neonatology, and Taeun Chang, MD, Division of Neurology, Children's National offers whole-body cooling and continuous neurological EEG (electroencephalogram) monitoring during hypothermia and rewarming. The program team is a collaboration between the divisions of Neonatology, Neurology, and Radiology, with contributions from early child development specialists. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my child need cerebral protection?

Your baby has a serious illness called neonatal encephalopathy. This means that his/her brain has become critically ill, which results in loss of normal movement, reduced response to normal stimulation, and perhaps even loss of consciousness and the ability to breathe. With routine neonatal intensive care, a mechanical ventilator can support your baby's respirations and perhaps ensure his/her survival. Cerebral protection through the use of therapeutic hypothermia is needed to help prevent and/or reduce neurological damage.

What is therapeutic hypothermia?

Two recent medical studies demonstrated fewer deaths or neurological disabilities occurring in encephalopathic children whose brains were cooled to about 92 F (normal body temperature is 98.6 F). Children's offers this therapeutic hypothermia, or whole-body cooling, where neonates are placed on a water-filled cooling mattress to reduce body temperature to 92 F for 3 days (72 hours). This time period is long enough to interrupt injury. After the three days, the baby recovers to its normal body temperature and is observed in the NICU. This cooling program meets the National Institute of Health’s Neonatal Network protocol, which demonstrates a reduction in death or serious disability from about two-thirds to about one-half of infants who develop serious neonatal encephalopathy within 6 hours of birth.

What happens after the therapeutic hypothermia process is finished?

Children's program provides continuous monitoring of electrical brain activity (EEG) during the entire cooling process to help assess your baby's need for medication (particularly seizure medications) and assess the brain’s health during recovery. After recovery and discharge from the hospital, Children's offers developmental follow-up evaluations by our pediatric/neonatal neurologist and developmental psychologist, who is closely attuned to each baby's needs and eventually school performance.

How is Children's equipped for this process?

Children's Neonatal Protection Team is led by Billie Short, MD, division chief, Neonatology, and Taeun Chang, MD, Neonatal Neurology. The rest of the team includes neonatologists, neonatal and neurointensive neurologists, pediatric neurosurgeons and pediatric neuroradiologists, who are all specialized in this procedure.

How can I learn more about this program?

Your baby's doctor will describe our cooling program to you in more detail and answer any questions about this new therapy, its potential benefit and possible risks or unknowns. Children's Neonatal Protection team is available to answer any of your questions at 202-476-5040.

Download this information in English or Spanish.

For Physicians

Our team has created a set of referral guidelines to help referring physicians determine if a patient is a candidate for Children's Therapeutic Whole-Body Hypothermia Program.

Children's Team

Children's Team


Billie Lou Short

Division Chief, Neonatology

Billie Short, MD, is the chief of the Division of Neonatology and the chief of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Dr. Short also is the Executive Director of the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Program (ECMO).

Children's Locations that Perform this Procedure

Children's Locations that Perform this Procedure

Treatment Service Locations

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Main Hospital

111 Michigan Avenue, NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20010

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