This site is intended for health professionals only

Baby "chilled" to calm heart rhythm

A Newcastle nurse has described how a baby was wrapped in a specially cooled blanket for four days following surgery to bring down her potentially fatal heart rate.

Paddy Walsh, a specialist children's cardiac nurse at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, said 16-week old Finley Burton was bundled up in the blanket while under heavy sedation to calm a rapid heart rhythm following surgery to correct a congenital heart condition.

Finley was born with a hole in his heart and a narrowed aorta, leaving him breathless as his overworked lungs struggled to compensate.

His laboured breathing pattern was also causing him to lose weight as the small amount of calories that he could take on each day were used up by his lungs.

Checks at the University Hospital of North Durham revealed the congenital heart condition and he underwent surgery at the Freeman Hospital two days later.

However, following the surgery Finley developed a near-fatal heart rate of nearly 200 beats per minute causing doctors to resort to drastic and unusual methods to bring it under control.

By wrapping the baby in a special blanket filled with chilled air for four days while under heavy sedation, doctors were able to replicate conditions close to hypothermia in order to bring his heart rate down.

Ms Walsh said Finley has gone on to make a "super" recovery despite his unusual treatment method.

"Obviously, if babies were awake and conscious throughout they would be very uncomfortable, but they are kept very sedated so they are not fighting it and are asleep," she said.

She added that in normal circumstances, most babies begin breathing and eating properly almost immediately after surgery.

"When we close off the hole, babies start breathing at a lovely rate and they manage to feed beautifully," she said.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Newcastle Hospitals