Preventing brain injury in the preterm infant—current controversies and potential therapies

Nathanael Yates, Alistair J. Gunn, Laura Bennet, Simerdeep K. Dhillon, Joanne O. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Preterm birth is associated with a high risk of morbidity and mortality including brain damage and cerebral palsy. The development of brain injury in the preterm infant may be influenced by many factors including perinatal asphyxia, infection/inflammation, chronic hypoxia and exposure to treatments such as mechanical ventilation and corticosteroids. There are currently very limited treatment options available. In clinical trials, magnesium sulfate has been associated with a small, significant reduction in the risk of cerebral palsy and gross motor dysfunction in early childhood but no effect on the combined outcome of death or disability, and longer-term follow up to date has not shown improved neurological outcomes in school-age children. Recombinant erythropoietin has shown neuroprotective potential in preclinical studies but two large randomized trials, in extremely preterm infants, of treatment started within 24 or 48 h of birth showed no effect on the risk of severe neurodevelopmental impairment or death at 2 years of age. Preclinical studies have highlighted a number of promising neuroprotective treatments, such as therapeutic hypothermia, melatonin, human amnion epithelial cells, umbilical cord blood and vitamin D supplementation, which may be useful at reducing brain damage in preterm infants. Moreover, refinements of clinical care of preterm infants have the potential to influence later neurological outcomes, including the administration of antenatal and postnatal corticosteroids and more accurate identification and targeted treatment of seizures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1671
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2021


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