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Magnesium Useful for Newborns with Low Oxygen

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Early treatment with magnesium can reduce the nerve damage seen in infants born with low oxygen levels, also referred to as asphyxia, according to a trial done by researchers in India. The results of the trial are published in the journal Pediatrics.

Perinatal asphyxia happens when a newborn is deprived of oxygen long enough to cause apparent damage. Most commonly it is caused by a fall in the mother’s blood pressure or interference during delivery with blood flow to the infant’s brain. On average, between two and 10 infants per 1,000 born at full-term will have perinatal asphyxia.

Asphyxia causes high levels of the amino acid glutamate to build up in the newborn brain said researcher Dr. Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat. For up to 72 hours, the excess glutamate causes irreversible nerve injury by opening certain cell channels and allowing calcium to flow into cells. Magnesium works to block this calcium flow.

Researchers at the Sheri-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar looked at 40 term infants admitted to their neonatal intensive care unit with severe perinatal asphyxia and moderate or severe brain injury. They were randomly assigned to receive three magnesium treatments or inactive placebo. Both groups received their assigned treatment within six hours of birth, then again after 24 and 48 hours. All patients received normal supportive care for perinatal asphyxia. Two patients in each group died during hospitalization.

56 percent of patients given placebo had abnormal neurologic exams when discharged from the hospital compared with just 22 percent of those given magnesium.

The study is the first one with a placebo comparison group to show “improved neurologic outcomes at discharge in the magnesium…group,” the authors note. They conclude that large, multicenter trials are now needed to corroborate their findings.

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