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‘Brain flushing’ saves lives of premature babies PDF Print Email
A new technique that "washes out" the brains of severely ill premature babies may help survival.
According to a study from Bristol University this new technique could have significant benefits in helping severely ill premature babies survive bleeding in the brain.

Bleeding in the brain is one of the most serious complications for very premature babies as it can lead to brain damage or death.

The study of 77 babies found the 'brain washing' technique - involving draining the brain while introducing new fluid - could reduce the risk.

It is suggested the process could help about 100 babies a year.

The researchers say the technique takes place over a couple of days and needs to be closeley monitored to make sure the pressure in the baby's brain does not rise too high.

Specialists and experts are encouraged by the findings.

It would only be used for the most premature babies who have large haemorrhages, causing the brain and head to excessively expnad, which is a condition called hydrocephalus.

At the moment the usual way of treating the condition is by inserting needles repeatedly into the head or spine to get rid of the fluid that has built up, this takes place over a number of months before a shunt is inserted to drain fluid into the stomach.
This new treatment is called drift and has found to be more effective suggests the study, published in the Pediatrics journal.

39 babies received the treatment, and of those 39, 54% had died or were severely disabled by the age of two, compared with 71% who had the standard treatment.

One of the lead researchers, paediatric neurosurgeon Ian Pople, hoped the technique would soon be used in the NHS saying

"This is the first time that any treatment anywhere in the world has been shown to benefit these very vulnerable babies."

Isaac Walker-Cox, nine, from South Gloucestershire was one of the first babies to be given this treatment before the latest study took place. Born 13 weeks early he was given a 1% chance of survival.

Rebekah Walker-Cox, his mother, said that while he has mild paralysis on the left-side of his body, he is living a normal childhood.

"Mentally he has no problems at all, he has an above average reading age and is very good with computers. He just gets on with life and is an outgoing, happy little boy."

Andy Cole, of the premature baby charity Bliss, said: "This is a very interesting piece of new research and we always welcome anything that has the potential to improve outcomes for babies born sick and premature.

"The early results of this technique are encouraging and we look forward to seeing how these findings might be translated into treatments that could ensure better outcomes for these vulnerable babies."