A new study titled “Prevention of Epilepsy by reducing Neonatal Encephalopathy” is said to be the world’s largest on infant brain injuries. Headed by Imperial College London, the study aims to reduce the number of infants who develop epilepsy as a result of perinatal brain damage. The study is generating attention around the world as researchers delve into one of the most common types of birth injury and the certainly devastating results.
Infant Brain Injury Study Information
Prevention of Epilepsy by reducing Neonatal Encephalopathy is being headed by Imperial College London along with researchers from institutions in India and the United Kingdom (UK). The study will include around 60,000 women from two large hospitals in South India – Calicut Medical College and Bangalore Medical College.
The study will include babies with brain injuries, and a detailed investigation will be conducted. The investigation will include neurophysiological tests including electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Also, neurodevelopmental follow up assessments will take place after testing.
The study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research, which is providing £3.4 million. That is equivalent to around $4.4 million. The study will take place over at least four years. Researchers hope that the findings of the study will help infants with brain injuries around the world.
One option for reducing infant brain injuries that researchers are investigating is implementing a “care bundle” during prenatal care. The bundle would include intelligent fetal heart rate monitoring, electronic partograph, birth companions and brain-oriented resuscitation. The evidence-based methods in care bundles have been shown in research to reduce infant brain injuries. They are not used in many parts of the world, however.
Many low and middle income countries and healthcare systems do not have adequate preventative equipment or techniques to reduce infant brain injuries. University College London professor, Helen Cross, notes,
“Millions of people around the world develop epilepsy every year and the incidence is twice as high in low and middle income countries.
Research like Prevention of Epilepsy by reducing Neonatal Encephalopathy may have a tremendous impact on outcomes in hospitals in these areas.
Infant Brain Injuries and Epilepsy
Brain damage during birth is one of the most common reasons why babies in some parts of the world develop epilepsy. The cause is often perinatal asphyxia, which results from a lack of oxygen to the brain. Birth asphyxia can happen for several reasons, including:
- Kinking or pinching of the umbilical cord
- Placental abruption
- Maternal infections
- Fetal anemia
- Meconium aspiration syndrome
- Hypoxemia (not enough oxygen in the mother’s blood)
- High or low maternal blood pressure
In addition to oxygen deprivation, if blood flow to the brain is also restricted, infants may experience hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). An HIE baby is at a considerable risk for brain injury that can lead to seizures and other long-term disorders.
One of the reasons why studies like this one are so important is because rates of brain injury and epilepsy are staggeringly high in some parts of the world. In India, for example, around 500,000 new cases of epilepsy emerge each year. Around 87,000 (17.4%) may be due to brain injuries during birth.
But brain injuries during birth do not only cause epilepsy. Many of the infants who develop epilepsy as a result of brain injuries will also develop neurodisabilities like cerebral palsy, blindness and deafness.
How Often Does Birth Asphyxia Occur?
Birth asphyxia occurs at an alarming rate. Estimates suggest that between two and 10 infants out of every 1,000 suffer a lack of oxygen at birth. Across the world, that equates to around 900,000 deaths each year. This alarming number is a clear indicator of why researchers are looking for ways to reduce asphyxia.
Not only is birth asphyxia one of the leading causes of infant mortality worldwide, but it also affects countless others. Infants who survive birth asphyxia have a higher risk of impairments, which can be life-altering. Conditions like epilepsy and cerebral palsy have a profound impact on the child and his or her parents. There are often financial costs including ongoing medical care, therapy and medications. Also, many families make home or lifestyle modifications.
Hope for the Future
At Birth Injury Guide, we applaud researchers for taking on such a tremendous study. Our birth injury lawyers have personally witnessed the impact of infant brain injuries on families. We certainly hope that researchers can identify ways to prevent these injuries in the future.