Thousands of babies could be saved from brain damage and death with cot device

Thousands of babies could be saved from brain damage and early death with a new device which rapidly detects if they have been starved of oxygen.

Neonatal Encephalophathy (NE or birth asphyxia), occurs when there is lack of blood and oxygen to the brain during birth and affects up to three newborns in every 1,000 in the UK.

Although early cooling treatment can effectively treat the condition, the condition is often caught late and nearly half of babies develop cerebral palsy or cognitive and behavioural problems.

Now British scientists have developed a system which monitors newborns in their cot using infrared light, and can pick up problems within 30 minutes of injury.

Professor Nicola Robertson, of University College London’s Institute for Women’s Health said: “Neonatal Encephalophathy is a leading cause of disability in the UK, and worldwide is responsible for more than a quarter of newborn deaths.

“It is crucial to be able to detect babies at high risk of adverse outcome early on and such markers produced by mini-CYRIL will allow us to target the artillery of other therapies to help to improve outcomes in babies with Neonatal Encephalophathy.”

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The findings are expected to increase the chance of survival for the approximately 2,000 babies who suffer the condition annually.

Current methods of diagnosis rely on Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) measurements,  a type of MRI scan used when the newborn is stable, usually a few days after birth. MRS is costly and not available in all hospitals which delays diagnosis and treatment.

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