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Magnesium Sulfate May Lower Cerebral Palsy Risk In Preterm Babies

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Thursday, August 28, 2008 3:46 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA & Prescription Drugs, Cerebral Palsy, Magnesium Sulfate, Premature Birth, High Blood Pressure, Pregnancy, Epsom Salt


IMAGE SOURCE: ©Wikimedia Commons/ premature infant/ author: Hallbrianh

A new study found, magnesium sulfate given to mothers at risk of preterm delivery, cut the rate of cerebral palsy in their babies by nearly half.

Cerebral palsy is a disorder of movement or coordination caused by an abnormality of the brain. More than 80% of people with cerebral palsy develop it either before they are born, during birth or before they are one month old.

Cerebral palsy affects 1 or 2 of every 1,000 infants and is characterized by spasticity, paralysis and poor muscle control.

The study, the first of its kind, included more than 2,200 pregnant women at risk for premature delivery – that were at 24 to 31 weeks. Half of them were given magnesium sulfate intravenously as they entered delivery while the other half was given a placebo infusion.

Babies that are born after 37 to 42 weeks of pregnancy are considered full term, according to the March of Dimes.

At the end of the study, researchers found that moderate to severe cerebral palsy occurred in 1.9 percent of the group treated with magnesium sulfate, compared to 3.5 percent in the placebo. No significant difference in the proportion of deaths between both groups was seen.

The findings suggest giving expectant mothers an infusion of magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salt, in the days leading up to delivery can help to lessen the risk of developing cerebral palsy by about half.

Dr. Dwight J. Rouse, study author and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said while it is unknown how it works, the compound may help to stabilize the vessels in the vulnerable preterm brain while protecting the brain from damages caused by lack of oxygen.

In previous studies, magnesium sulfate hasn’t faired as an effective treatment for the delay of early labor. But it has proven effective for the treatment of maternal high blood pressure associated with pregnancy.

Other studies have been inconclusive at showing magnesium sulfate as effective in reducing the risk of cerebral palsy, which led Rouse and his team to embark on this larger, more comprehensive study.

The findings are only applicable to early preterm birth and advised for expectant mothers at risk of delivering before 32 weeks.

The study was published in the Aug. 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Another recent study found an infection of the amniotic fluid may be leading to premature births, according to Stanford University School of Medicine researchers. #

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