Last-Minute Treatment May Help Preemies
Giving Magnesium Sulfate Just Before Birth May Fight Cerebral Palsy
Nov. 25, 2003 -- Giving women who are about to give birth to a
very premature infant a dose of magnesium sulfate may help reduce the baby's
risk of neurological problems like cerebral palsy.
A new report shows the last-minute treatment appears to be safe
for both mother and child, but researchers stress that this finding needs to be
repeated in further studies before it's adopted as standard practice.
Infants who are born very prematurely at less than 30 weeks of
gestation are at increased risk of death as well as neurological problems or
disabilities. A full-term pregnancy is between 38 and 42 weeks of
Treatment Shows Promise
Researchers say although some previous studies have suggested
that magnesium sulfate might help protect the brains of premature infants
against complications, there hadn't been any large, randomized, controlled
studies to look at the issue.
In this study, published in the Nov. 26 issue of The Journal
of the American Medical Association, researchers compared the effects of
magnesium sulfate vs. placebo in 1,062 women with fetuses under 30 weeks'
gestation who were expected to give birth within 24 hours.
The women were randomly assigned to receive either an infusion
of magnesium sulfate or a placebo solution intravenously for up to 24 hours
before birth, and then researchers followed the women and their babies for
about two years.
Researchers found that the children of women who got the
magnesium sulfate had lower risks of death and cerebral palsy compared with the
others, but those differences were not significantly different.
However, there was a significant reduction in other
neurological problems, such as muscular abnormalities.
Researchers say although the study did not show differences in
some of the treatment outcomes, the decrease in muscular problems could have
potentially important treatment implications and merit further study.