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New way to prevent newborn brain damage

New way to prevent baby brain damage
Photo: New way to prevent baby brain damage
New Zealand researchers have led a study into how to prevent newborn babies suffering brain damage as a result of low blood sugar.

Treating low blood sugar in newborn babies with hypoglycemia helps prevent brain damage, a new global study led by New Zealand researchers has found.

Around a third of all newborns are at risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood pressure, with around one in ten ending in intensive care due to the condition.

But a world-first study led by the Liggins Institute at Auckland University found that if doctors treat a baby with hypoglycemia and keep blood sugar above a safety threshold, there is no increase in the risk of brain damage.
"Hypoglycemia is the single most preventable cause of brain damage in newborns," Professor Jane Harding said.

"We know that a baby with a blood glucose level that is too low for too long will suffer neurological damage, but there has been debate about just how low, for how long, and in which babies."

"This is the first clear evidence that treating babies to keep their blood sugar above a widely-used safety intervention threshold does indeed protect them."

But ensuring the brain function of newborns may not be as simple as increasing their blood sugar.

"It may be that it's not only important to keep blood glucose levels from dropping too low, but also to keep them from swinging too high, too fast, but we need further studies to confirm that link."

The study which was co-authored by researchers in New Zealand and the United States will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday.

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