July 07, 2005

Improving Brain Development of Preemies

Previous studies have indicated that below-weight babies, and babies who experience birth complications, have an increased risk for schizophrenia. One of the reasons for this might be because these babies are often deprived of oxygen (either due to prolonged birth complications or because of underdeveloped lungs), which can delay normal brain development.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that nitrous oxide treatment after birth might help prevent the developmental damage that often plagues very small and premature babies. Nitrous oxide is a gas that both relaxes blood vessels to allow greater oxygen-carrying capacity, and also promotes the growth of new blood vessels.

The study out of Stanford University followed a group of 138 toddlers from birth, comparing the development of those given nitrous oxide treatment at birth (n = 68) vs those who were not (n = 70).

Results included the following findings:

--"24% of the children who received nitric oxide as babies had delayed mental development or a disability, such as blindness, cerebral palsy or hearing loss, compared to 46% of those who received standard treatment of oxygen with no nitric oxide."

--"Sixteen per cent who received nitrous oxide treatment were seen to have delayed brain development compared to 34% of those who did not."

Some have expressed concern that nitrous oxide treatment increases risk of brain hemorrhaging; a second study from the same research team recommends that this treatment not be given to the very smallest premature babies (2.2 pounds or less at birth). However, since increased schizophrenia risk seems to be linked to below-weight babies who are born at full term, nitrous oxide treatment might be a potentially useful tool if these initial results are replicated and shown to be safe and effective.

Original Study Abstract:
Inhaled Nitric Oxide for Premature Infants with Severe Respiratory Failure. New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 353:13-22

Original Source Article: Relaxant 'helps premature babies'. BBC News (http://news.bbc.co.uk), July 7 2005.

More information on risk factors for schizophrenia during pregnancy, and avoidance actions you can take to protect yourself and your child: http://www.schizophrenia.com/prevent3.htm


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