Hope for tiny babies | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - June 2003

Hope for tiny babies

Premature babies are at risk of brain damage due to too little oxygen reaching the brain. One reason for this is that normal blood pressure cannot be maintained. Two patterns of brain damage are haemorrhage and the formation of cysts.

The team found that low blood pressure is often due to the baby’s heart working less well than it should. They found that when less blood goes to the brain, it adapts by absorbing more oxygen from the blood.

^The group has also shown that brain haemorrhage is associated with fluctuating levels of brain oxygen^, whereas when cavities form in the brain tissue from cyst formation there was a constant supply of oxygen to the brain. It therefore appears that the causes of these two important conditions are very different.

It supports a view that, while brain haemorrhage is likely to be due to fluctuations in the blood and oxygen supply to the brain, the formation of cysts in the brain is due to an entirely different mechanism, possibly infection.

Further research has to be done which will then be developed into guidelines for other specialists to use. These guidelines will specify how much oxygen very premature babies need, which should reduce incidence of brain damage.

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