Magnesium Sulfate Could Prevent Cerebral Palsy In Very Preterm Infants: Study

Concerns remain about the impact on fetal heart rates and other potential adverse health effects.

The findings of new research suggests that giving pregnant women magnesium sulfate supplements before delivery may help prevent cerebral palsy among preterm infants.

The study was published in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology on November 29, outlining the benefits of giving magnesium sulfate to pregnant women at risk of preterm delivery prior to 30 weeks gestation, indicating that it could significantly reduce the risk of cerebral palsy, a birth injury that causes permanent movement problems due to damage to the brain during or before birth.

According to Australian researchers at SAHMRI and the University of Adelaide, implementing programs that administer magnesium sulfate intravenously to pregnant women at risk of preterm delivery could prevent nearly two dozen cerebral palsy cases each year in Australia and New Zealand.

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Magnesium Sulfate has long been linked to prevention of cerebral palsy, but there are concerns over its potential health effects on fetal heart rates, incidents of hypotension for pregnant women and other adverse side effects. The researchers implemented a quality improvement program at an Australian hospital designed to increase the availability of magnesium sulfate for a neonatologist, midwife, and neonatal nurse to administer to mothers at risk of delivering preterm.

According to lead author of the study, Amy Keir, implementing the quality improvement program at one hospital in Adelaide increased the magnesium sulfate coverage from 63% to 86% of eligible mothers. The increased coverage of magnesium sulfate is projected to have prevented at least five fewer children being diagnosed with cerebral palsy over five years.

“If other units across Australia and New Zealand were supported to do similar work, they too would be able to prevent a significant number of children developing CP,” Keir said in a press release issued by SAHMRI.

However, the study highlights the lack of quality improvement programs in hospitals and their failures to properly allocate funds and resources to maintain these programs and inventory of magnesium sulfate.

In 2018, a similar study was published in the medical journal Implementation Science, suggesting that giving magnesium sulfate to pregnant women at risk of preterm delivery between 32 and 34 weeks into their pregnancy results in the best outcomes, reducing the risks of cerebral palsy by 32%, as well as the risks of adverse health effects.

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that may be attributed to brain damage suffered before, during or shortly after birth. If the child’s brain is deprived of oxygen around the time of birth, it can result in irreversible damage that leaves the child with developmental problems, loss of motor functions and other life-long injuries and disabilities.

While there is no cure for the disorder, early diagnosis may increase the treatment options and the likelihood that the severity of cerebral palsy may be reduced, resulting in permanent improvements in quality of life for the child.

In many cases, cerebral palsy is caused by a birth injury or medical mistake that may have been prevented by the exercise of the proper standards of medical care. In those cases, families may be able to pursue financial compensation for the child through a cerebral palsy malpractice lawsuit.


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