Media/Cerebral Palsy Prevention Therapy on the Rise

Cerebral Palsy Prevention Therapy on the Rise

Uptake of magnesium sulphate guidelines will reduce incidence of cerebral palsy

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Results of the WISH Study (Working to Improve Survival and Health for babies born very preterm) are to be revealed at the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand 17th Annual Congress in Adelaide today. They reveal that almost all tertiary maternity hospitals across Australia and New Zealand are now following the bi-national clinical practice guidelines aimed at reducing death or disability in babies born very prematurely.


Uptake of the magnesium sulphate guidelines increased in hospitals in 2012, following a call to action from Cerebral Palsy Alliance and the University of Adelaide, which at the time revealed the therapy, given to women prior to preterm birth, has the potential to save the lives of, or minimise cerebral palsy risks in, up to 150 babies each year in Australia and New Zealand.


However, the results of the WISH study also reveal that some hospitals with neonatal intensive care units are not yet implementing the guideline systematically, and in those that do, some eligible mothers are still not receiving this treatment.


Professor Nadia Badawi from Cerebral Palsy Alliance says the funding provided by the organization has accelerated research findings.


‘Research findings used to take as long as 20 years to convert into clinical practice, but with this financial support this timeline has been fast-tracked and enabled implementation of this vital treatment in Australian hospitals within a few short years.
‘This has greatly improved the health outcomes of Australian babies born very prematurely.’


However, Philippa Middleton, from the University of Adelaide, says that the therapy still remains underused. “In Australia and New Zealand, 4800 women give birth to very premature babies, between 22 and 30 weeks’ gestation. 17% of these babies are at risk of dying in the first weeks of life or later having cerebral palsy. While it’s encouraging that 76% of hospitals surveyed were implementing these guidelines, our goal is to continue to increase this, helping to minimise cerebral palsy risks in premature babies.”


Although magnesium sulphate therapy is being effectively used in some hospitals around Australia and New Zealand, the aim is to have it implemented in all specialist hospitals in both countries.

“While the magnesium sulphate treatment is endorsed by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, more work needs to be done to ensure that all expectant Australian mothers have access to it in case they go into very preterm labour,” Professor Caroline Crowther said.

“The good news is that by giving mothers magnesium sulphate immediately prior to a very premature birth increases the chances of the baby surviving, and without cerebral palsy.”

Media Contact: Jennifer Durante – Media Manager – (02) 9975 8758 / 0419 802 602

Released on 16 Apr 2013