UK university's research throws light on early infant mortality

A major study of all 137 newborn babies who died in Scotland during a two-year period reveals that the majority had brain damage which occurred during pregnancy.

The research, headed by Professor Neil McIntosh of the University of Edinburgh (http://www.ed.ac.uk) involved pediatricians, obstetricians and pathologists from Scotland, failed to identify any indicators in the mothers or their pregnancies and labors which could predict the birth of a compromised baby.

These findings, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood (http://adc.bmjjournals.com), are expected to help parents and medical professionals who feel they should have noticed problems prior to or during the birth, and could also reduce legal actions taken against doctors and midwives for perceived mismanagement of pregnancy and labor.

Professor McIntosh, who is also a neonatal consultant with NHS Lothian- University Hospitals Division said, "It has long been known that only about 10 percent of babies dying in the newborn period have problems identified during labor and delivery which require urgent medical intervention and special neonatal care. There has always been anxiety that important signs are being missed in the other 90 percent and that management during childbirth is negligent in some way."

"In this huge study, we carried out detailed examinations on the brains of newborn infants where the parents consented to autopsy: almost two-thirds of the 137 babies involved. Our group has been able to show that in 36 percent of babies born early and in 61 percent of those born at term there is evidence of significant brain damage that clearly happened before labor began. This is far more common in infants born in an asphyxiated (suffocated) condition."

"All of the full-term infants who had an acidosis (a metabolic disorder); a low mark on the A

Contact: Makeda Scott
British Information Services

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