Dr. Karen Nelson from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) division NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) recently investigated four possible risk factors for infant death and cerebral palsy. Establishing clear-cut risk factors is important for the medical community as these risk factors are like an early detection system signaling the need for additional testing or close monitoring. The doctor worked with colleagues from the University of Western Australia, University of Sydney and the Sydney Advent Hospital. The four risk factors included in the study were inflammation, birth defects, impaired fetal growth, and oxygen deprivation during delivery.

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that affects muscle development and movement. Two common side effects or effects of the condition are dyskinesia – jerky movements of the muscle and spastic quadriplegia – extreme stiffness of limbs.

According to Dr. Nelson and fellow researchers, two of the four risk factors may prove helpful as an early red flag system for cerebral palsy and the associated conditions. For the sake of the study, researchers pulled medical records of infants who died within the first month of birth and children diagnosed with cerebral palsy. These records were compared with control groups of infants and children in the same age groups.

Researchers noted all four risk factors were present in infants affected with cerebral palsy, but birth defects and impaired growth were most prevalent in cerebral palsy patients and were the only two risk factors noted in patients with dyskinesia and spastic quadriplegia.

In the past, oxygen deprivation was considered the prime risk factor for infant death and/or cerebral palsy, but Nelson and colleagues believe the two more common risk factors – birth defects and impaired growth – are being overlooked. Researchers suggest additional research is completed that focuses on these two risk factors and their prevalence in patients diagnosed with cerebral palsy or succumbing to infant death.

Source: McIntyre et al. Antecedents of Cerebral Palsy and Perinatal Death in Term and Late Preterm Singletons. Obstetrics & Gynecology. September 9, 2013. DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e3182a265ab.

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