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Brain Chemicals May Signal Which Preemies Will Have Delays
Goal is to improve these babies' quality of life, researcher says

By Robert Preidt

TUESDAY, Dec. 17, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- A potential new way to identify premature infants at high risk for delays in motor skills development may have been discovered by researchers.

The researchers conducted brain scans on 43 infants in the United Kingdom who were born at less than 32 weeks' gestation and admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The scans focused on the brain's white matter, which is especially fragile in newborns and at risk for injury. They also conducted tests that measured certain brain chemical levels.

When 40 of the infants were evaluated a year later, 15 had signs of motor problems, according to the study published online Dec. 17 in the journal Radiology. Motor skills are typically described as the precise movement of muscles or groups of muscles to perform a certain act.

The researchers determined that ratios of particular brain chemicals at birth can help predict motor-skill problems. Specifically, increased choline/creatine and decreased N-acetylaspartate/choline were 70 percent accurate in predicting which babies would have motor development delays one year later.

Being able to predict the risk of neurodevelopmental problems in premature babies would help identify those who should receive intensive treatment, and also prove useful in assessing the effectiveness of those therapies, according to study author Giles Kendall of University College London.

Physical therapy is available but very expensive, and the vast majority of premature babies don't need it, he said. "Our hope is to find a robust biomarker that we can use as an outcome measure so that we don't have to wait five or six years to see if an intervention has worked," he said in a journal news release.

Severe disability associated with premature birth has decreased over the past two decades as a result of improved care in NICUs. But many premature infants still have subtle problems that can be difficult to detect, Kendall noted.

"There's a general shift away from simply ensuring the survival of these infants to how to give them the best quality of life. Our research is part of an effort to improve the outcomes for prematurely born infants and to identify earlier which babies are at greater risk," he said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about premature babies.

SOURCE: Radiology, news release, Dec. 17, 2013

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved. URL:http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=682929

Resources from HONselect: HONselect is the HON's medical search engine. It retrieves scientific articles, images, conferences and web sites on the selected subject.
Brain
Research Personnel
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Choline
Muscles
Motor Skills
Wounds and Injuries
The list of medical terms above are retrieved automatically from the article.

Disclaimer: The text presented on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It is for your information only and may not represent your true individual medical situation. Do not hesitate to consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified healthcare professional.
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