BACKGROUND:To evaluate the feasibility of a protocol using combined magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), clinical data, and electroencephalogram (EEG) to identify neonates with mild neonatal encephalopathy (NE) treated with therapeutic hypothermia (TH) who are eligible for “early exit”.
METHODS:Retrospective chart review of TH cases at a single Level III NICU over a 5-year period was used to describe the demographic, clinical, and outcome data in neonates that received early exit in contrast to 72 hour TH treatment.
RESULTS:Two hundred and eight TH cases, including 18 early exit cases (9%) and 9 cases (4%) evaluated for early exit with MRI but continued on 72 hours of TH, were identified. Early exit and 72 hour treatment groups did not differ in demographics or cord gas measures, although early exit neonates had a shorter length of stay (p < 0.05). Consistent with the early exit protocol, no early exit infants had evidence of moderate or severe encephalopathy on EEG or evidence of hypoxic ischemic injury on MRI at 24 hours of life. Neurology follow up between age 1 and 18 months was available for 10 early exit infants, 8 of whom had a normal examination.
CONCLUSIONS:Early MRI at 24 hours of age, alongside clinical and EEG criteria, is feasible as part of a protocol to identify neonates eligible for early exit from therapeutic hypothermia.