Researchers are developing a blood test that could help identify brain injury in babies who experience birth asphyxia during delivery.
Asphyxia is a term used to describe a dangerous lack of oxygen that often causes brain injury. Perinatal or birth asphyxia occurs during labor and at birth, as the name implies. Causes of birth asphyxia include a traumatic or prolonged birth, infection, maternal stress, problems with the umbilical cord, and abnormal birth position, among other reasons.
Birth asphyxia is a factor in children diagnosed with cerebral palsy, blindness, epilepsy, and other conditions related to neurological deficits.
Identifying children who have suffered birth asphyxia is critical in the early moments of life. Infants suspected of oxygen loss are often treated by lowering their body temperature to prevent further brain damage. But these measures depend on identifying injured infants. Just some of the physical symptoms of perinatal asphyxia include:
- Poor muscle tone, respiration, and heart rate
- Poor coloring
A recent study in the journal Nature discusses a study involving 45 babies identified as having suffered lack of oxygen at birth. Like cerebral palsy, birth asphyxia manifests in different ways. The consequences of oxygen deprivation can become apparent over hours, days, or months. In this study, researchers obtained blood samples within six hours after birth and then followed up at 18-months.
The purpose of the analysis was to determine if genes expressed differently, such as turning on or off, between the six hour and 18-month blood sample. As it turns out, study authors identified 855 more genes that behaved differently in the second sample than the first. Two genes showed significant differences and it is these genes that scientists will continue to examine in effort to understand how asphyxia damages gene expression and how better outcomes might be obtained.
On the continued development of the blood test, lead author Dr. Paolo Montaldo said, “We know that early intervention is key to preventing the worst outcomes in babies following oxygen deprivation, but knowing which babies need this help, and how best to help them, remains a challenge.”
While there are always dangers of complications at birth, there are times when birth injury such as asphyxia occurs because physician failure to call for a C-section in time, use of ineffective measures to free a baby from a shoulder dystocia, or below standard medical or nursing care.
If the blood test developed during this research proves effective, it may give medical personnel better and additional means to identify newborns in critical condition and possibly help them avoid or mitigate permanent brain injury.
If you, or your child, suffered severe injury during a birth event, compensation may be needed to pay for a lifetime of care. When you have questions about medical negligence, speak with our legal team.
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