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Common treatment to delay labor decreases preterm infants' risk for cerebral palsy
Date:8/28/2008

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Intravenous magnesium sulfate supplementation before preterm delivery cuts the risk for handicapping cerebral palsy in half, according to research led by University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) obstetrician Dwight Rouse, M.D., and published in the Aug. 28 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Cerebral palsy refers to a group of neurological disorders affecting control of movement and posture and limiting activity. The causes of cerebral palsy are not well understood, though cerebral palsy is attributed to brain injury or developmental abnormality during pregnancy, birth or in early childhood. It is estimated that cerebral palsy afflicts more than 200,000 Americans between the ages of 3 and 13, making it a leading cause of chronic childhood disability.

Magnesium sulfate is given routinely to prevent seizures in women with preeclampsia and to stop preterm labor. Previous research suggested that fetal exposure to magnesium sulfate before preterm birth might reduce the risk of cerebral palsy.

"The association between magnesium sulfate and a lower incidence of cerebral palsy has biologic plausibility, because magnesium stabilizes blood vessels, protects against damage from oxygen depletion, and protects against injury from swelling and inflammation, all of which threaten the vulnerable preterm brain," Rouse said. "Our study is the largest, most comprehensive effort to evaluate the effect of magnesium sulfate on the incidence of cerebral palsy in preterm infants."

Early preterm birth is a risk factor for cerebral palsy, and the magnitude of the risk rises the earlier a baby is born. During the past 20 to 30 years, the survival of infants born severely preterm has improved dramatically, and while some research suggests that the rate of cerebral palsy among the survivors of early preterm birth has decreased, other research suggests that it has not. Currently, approximately one of every three cases of cere
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Contact: Jennifer Lollar
jpark@uab.edu
205-934-3888
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Source:Eurekalert

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