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Magnesium Sulfate Reduces Threat of Cerebral Palsy
Date:8/27/2008

Compound given to women at risk of preterm birth cuts risk in half, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Magnesium sulfate, given to mothers at risk of preterm delivery, cut the rate of cerebral palsy in their babies by nearly half, a new study found.

"If deemed to be at high or immediate risk of delivery prior to 32 weeks, women and their doctors should consider using magnesium sulfate to prevent their child from having cerebral palsy," said study lead author Dr. Dwight J. Rouse, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The findings are published in the Aug. 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

But in an editorial accompanying the study, other experts called for caution and more study before routinely recommending the treatment to prevent cerebral palsy.

In the study, the largest of its kind, Rouse and his colleagues randomly assigned 2,241 women at risk of delivering early -- between 24 and 31 weeks -- to receive either magnesium sulfate or a placebo. (Babies born after 37 to 42 weeks of pregnancy are considered full term, according to the March of Dimes.) The magnesium sulfate was given intravenously as the women entered labor as a 6-gram dose followed by a constant infusion of 2 grams per hour until either 12 hours had passed, labor had subsided, or they had given birth.

The researchers then compared infants born to each group of mothers to see if there were differences in the rates of death or the occurrence of cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy, marked by abnormal movement control and postures that cause limited activity, is caused by damage or dysfunction to the developing fetal or infant brain. Preterm birth is itself a risk factor for the condition. About one third of cerebral palsy cases are associated with preterm birth.

In past studies, magnesium sulfate hasn't borne out as an effective treat
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