- Therapeutic cooling treatment in babies with birth asphyxia (oxygen-deprivation condition) can reduce the chances of developing epilepsy
- The treatment might also bring down the number of children on anti-epileptic drugs
- The severity of cerebral palsy and mortality can also be reduced
Therapeutic cooling of babies deprived of oxygen at birth (birth asphyxia) may help reduce number of epileptic cases in children, found a new study published in the journal Epilepsia
It is known that newborn babies who suffer birth asphyxia may develop permanent brain injury resulting in cerebral palsy or other conditions, like epilepsy
. Until recently, 20 to 30 percent of these patients would develop epilepsy, and many need regular anti-epileptic treatment
. The patient's cognitive performance, life quality, and life expectancy are also affected by the condition.
‘Chances of epilepsy development can be reduced by therapeutic cooling treatment in babies with birth asphyxia (oxygen-deprivation condition)’
The research team has developed and delivered cooling treatment, known as therapeutic hypothermia, for newborns who suffer lack of oxygen during birth.The study has been led by Marianne Thoresen, Professor of Neonatal Neuroscience, from the Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences at the University of Bristol.
For up to eight years, the researchers followed 165 infants who were born in the south-west and who received cooling therapy at St Michael's Hospital, Bristol, part of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust. The study examined how many babies were diagnosed with epilepsy and how many are on regular anti-epileptic drug treatment at two and four to eight years of age.
The research found that babies, born after 2007, who received the cooling treatment, had much less epilepsy than before cooling treatment
was introduced. At two years, seven percent of the children had an epilepsy diagnosis, however, far fewer, only two percent, were on regular anti-epileptic drugs.
The study showed that more children had epilepsy when they reached the age of four to eight years with seven percent on regular medication. However, these are very low numbers needing antiepileptic treatment compared to before cooling treatment was introduced
as a standard of care.
Before therapeutic hypothermia was introduced, poor outcome meaning death or moderate or severe disability was around 66 percent
(32 percent death and 34 percent surviving with a disability).
With this Cooling treatment born after 2007, the number of children with poor outcome is lower at 34 percent
(11 percent death and 23 percent survived with a disability). Also, the severity of cerebral palsy is milder, and seven out of ten were able to walk. Even if a lesser severity of birth asphyxia is accounted for, cooling therapy has increased the number of healthy survivors, and there are very few children with epilepsy needing drug treatment
Professor Marianne Thoresen said: "Even if we account for a lesser severity of birth asphyxia, our research has shown that therapeutic hypothermia reduces the number of children who develop epilepsy later in childhood. Cooling treatment also reduces the number and severity of cerebral palsy and increases the number of patients who survive normally
Xun Liu, Sally Jary, Frances Cowan and Marianne Thoresen,Reduced infancy and childhood epilepsy following hypothermia-treated neonatal encephalopathy. Epilepsia (2017)DOI:10.1111/epi.13914