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Could Some Newborn Brain Injury be Prevented?

A joint team of pediatricians and obstetricians has come out with some new guidance for professionals in those two particular areas of medical practice. They are encouraging their fellow physicians to begin performing more comprehensive research into the causes of brain injuries in newborn children.

The premise, according to the panel, is that if the exact causes of such injuries can be identified, it should help doctors come up with new strategies to prevent injuries from occurring, or allow possible treatments to be employed earlier.

Considering that brain injuries suffered at birth often trigger claims of medical malpractice against doctors, it might be easy to assume that the main motive behind this new guidance is avoidance. But the researchers say the new suggestions actually reflect advances that have been made in diagnosis and treatment of neonatal brain injury since the last set of guidelines were issued in 2003.

At that time, the focus of the guidelines was on trying to discover whether and how a newborn had suffered a lack of oxygen at the time of birth. But members of the pediatric and obstetric task force that wrote the new principles say it is now known that some cases of newborn brain injury can happen during pregnancy. As a result, doctors are being urged to carefully consider the mother’s general medical history; look for possible problems with the placenta; and track possible issues during labor and delivery.

The doctors say things that can contribute to newborn brain injuries besides oxygen deprivation can include disorders of body metabolism, genetic conditions and infections. What isn’t known is how often each of those issues may contribute to the problem and whether preventive steps might be possible.

The guidelines are published in this month’s issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology. They will also appear in the May issue of Pediatrics.

Source: HealthDay, “Spotting Cause of Newborn Brain Injury Could Aid Prevention, Report Says,” Mary Elizabeth Dallas, April 3, 2014