Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cerebral palsy among preemies may be declining
By Amy Norton
NEW YORK Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:31pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The rate of cerebral palsy among very preterm infants may be much lower now compared with 20 years ago, a study at one large medical center suggests.

Cerebral palsy refers to a group of conditions, usually present at birth, that permanently damage movement, balance and posture. The impairments range from mild to more severe, such as mental retardation and an inability to walk.

The precise cause of cerebral palsy is unknown, but it's thought to involve a disruption in normal fetal brain development. Premature and low-birthweight infants have a higher risk than full-term, normal-weight babies.

Studies on the rate of cerebral palsy among preterm infants have come to conflicting conclusions, with some suggesting it has remained stable and others finding a decline.

In the new study, researchers at the University Medical Center Utrecht, in the Netherlands, found that between 1990 and 2005 cerebral palsy rates fell among preterm infants treated in their neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

From 1990 to 1993, 6.5 percent of 755 infants were diagnosed with cerebral palsy. That rate fell to 2.2 percent of 913 newborns admitted to the NICU between 2002 and 2005 according to the findings, which are published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Much of the decline seemed to be related to a 93 percent drop in the number of preterm infants with severe damage to the white matter of the newborn's brain, called cystic periventricular leukomalacia. The condition is commonly caused by infections in the mother.

One of the factors found to be protective against cerebral palsy was giving antibiotics to mothers in preterm labor, lead researcher Dr. Linda de Vries told Reuters Health in an email.

Read the rest of the article here.

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