The question of whether or not to perform therapeutic hypothermia: A case of neonatal spinal cord injury

K. Yokoi*, S. Kobayashi, K. Muramatsu, S. Suzuki, H. Gotou | JNPM 2017;

Neonatal spinal cord injury is an extremely rare perinatal complication that often occurs concurrently with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), further complicating diagnosis of spinal cord injury. Although therapeutic hypothermia for moderate to severe HIE is widely recommended in Japan, it is difficult to determine whether it satisfies the neurological findings-related entry criteria in some patients. We describe a female infant with neonatal spinal cord injury after forceps delivery, who underwent therapeutic hypothermia upon diagnosis of HIE. The Apgar scores were 5 at 1 min, 6 at 5 min, and not recorded at 10 min. Blood gas analysis of her umbilical artery was not performed. Since respiratory failure, hypotonia and the absence of primitive reflexes were found at 2 hours after birth, she was initially diagnosed with moderate HIE and underwent a therapeutic hypothermia. Magnetic resonance imaging after therapeutic hypothermia revealed the spinal cord was narrowed from the lower medulla oblongata to the upper cervical cord. Thus she was diagnosed with an upper spinal cord injury at that time. Some patients with neonatal spinal cord injuries satisfy the criteria for therapeutic hypothermia. When neonates with asphyxia present with prolonged respiratory failure and hypotonia, spinal cord injury should be considered in the differential diagnosis. Thus, an early MRI is vital for the diagnosis of spinal cord injury. 

*Corresponding Author: 

Kyoko Yokoi, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Pediatrics, Nagoya City West Medical Center. 1-1-1, Hirate-cho, Kita-ku, Nagoya, 462-8508, Japan. Tel.: +81 52 991 8121; Fax: +81 52 916 2038; E-mail: