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Caffeine Therapy Boosts Preemies' Outcomes
Date:11/7/2007

It cut their risk for neurodevelopmental trouble, researchers say,,,,

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Some adults joke they couldn't live without their morning coffee, but caffeine may be literally life-changing if given as treatment to tiny premature infants.

New research finds that high doses of caffeine therapy given to babies born very early -- an average of 27 weeks gestation -- reduced their risk of serious disabilities, including cerebral palsy.

"This is really good news for caregivers and parents. We now know that caffeine is definitively a treatment where the benefits outweigh the harms," said the study's lead author, Dr. Barbara Schmidt, a professor in the department of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. "This is actually the first drug that has been convincingly shown to reduce disability rates in these children," she added.

Schmidt's team published its findings in the Nov. 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

About 12 percent of American babies are born prematurely, according to the March of Dimes. The earlier a baby is born -- normal gestation is 40 weeks, and anything before 37 weeks is considered premature -- the more likely that baby is to have serious disabilities if he or she survives.

Because the odds are often against the tiniest babies, neonatologists quickly put into practice treatments they think might help premature infants survive with the fewest disabilities. Studies on the efficacy of such treatments often follow, and that's the case with caffeine therapy. According to Dr. Beverly Brozanski, clinical director of neonatology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, caffeine therapy has been used to treat premature infants for about 10 years.

To answer the question of whether or not caffeine therapy was helping or harming premature infants with a condition known as apnea of pr
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