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MRI's May Show Brain Injuries in Premature Babies

New Study Suggests MRIs Can Guide Development for Premature Babies with Brain Injuries 

According to a recent article in HealthDay News, a new study suggests that MRI scans, when they are conducted shortly after the birth of a premature baby, can help to determine whether the infant suffered a brain injury. When infants sustain brain injuries, those injuries can impact the child’s development and, ultimately, the rest of the life of the child. As the article explains, the study, which was conducted at the Toronto, Canada Hospital for Sick Children, suggests that “doctors can predict which premature infants will suffer from future motor, thinking, and language problems by using MRI scans to identify specific injuries to the white matter in their brain.”

The study specifically addresses white matter injuries. When these particular types of birth injuries occur, especially those affecting the brain’s frontal lobes, the injury can drastically impact the child’s development.

What causes white matter injuries? One of the senior researchers in the study, Dr. Steven Miller, explained how “fluctuations in blood pressure that occur regularly in preemies might cause a lack of blood flow or oxygen to the brain, damaging the white matter.” Another researcher, Dr. Gregory Lodygensky, explained that white matter injuries can also result from “inflammation and infection” early on.

The MRI scans in the study helped show “preemies with larger frontal lobe injuries were 79 times more likely to develop thinking problems than infants without such injuries.” Those premature babies were also 64 times more likely to have “problems with motor development,” according to the researchers. Why are white matter injuries in the frontal lobes so devastating? This is the part of the brain responsible for regulating a person’s “problem-solving, memory, language skills, and voluntary movement skills,” according to the study’s authors.

Getting the Facts About Premature Babies and Brain Injuries

How common are premature births and brain injuries? The following facts and figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shed light on the number of babies impacted by premature births and head trauma:

  • More than 10% of all babies born in the United States are born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy);
  • Approximately one-third of infant deaths result from issues connected to a preterm birth;
  • Premature babies often suffer from health conditions that include breathing problems, feeding difficulties, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, vision problems, and hearing impairment;
  • Very young or older mothers are more commonly associated with preterm births; and
  • Infections during pregnancy can result in preterm birth and resulting brain injuries.

It is always important to take steps to prevent infection, inflammation, and other conditions that can result in a premature birth. In some cases improper care may be the cause of premature birth or birth injuries. In such a situation, contact a birth injury lawyer to determine your rights.

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