Ground breaking research at Liverpool Women's will have a huge impact worldwide on outcomes for babies born extremely prematurely, says Bliss, the special care baby charity.
The research, led by Dr Colin Morgan, Consultant Neonatologist at Liverpool Women’s, has proved that improving the intravenous nutrition of very premature babies through a special drip will help their brains grow better in the first weeks after birth.
This in turn will improve their future quality of life, preventing problems such as learning difficulties and cerebral palsy.
The two-year SCAMP (Standardised Concentrated with added Macronutrients Parenteral) study has been funded by Bliss and Liverpool Women's Newborn Appeal. For the first time ever, it scientifically proved that poor postnatal head (and so brain) growth in the first 28 days of life can be prevented by optimising early protein and energy intake.
As Dr Morgan points out, at 24-25 weeks babies' brains begin a growth spurt which continues through the last trimester and the first three months after birth at full term. If babies do not receive appropriate nutrition at this critical time, there may be irreversible long term affects to the baby's brain and nervous system. This study concentrated on the early part of this growth spurt when these babies are particularly vulnerable.
Said Dr Morgan: "Our research showed that by preventing head growth failure in the first 28 days of life there is a lasting impact. By optimising babies' nutritional intake their heads will grow more which can help realise the full potential of the baby’s brain and nervous system.
"Our thinking was that we should try to equate what the placenta would be giving them had they not been born prematurely. Our SCAMP regimen ensures that they are getting nutrition as soon as they are born which will be built up slowly so that they are getting full nutrition by day five."
The study's findings, published in the journal Paediatrics, are already being acted upon by other neonatal services providing advanced levels of care in the North West.
Said Dr Morgan: "Optimum nutrition may also mean that babies are better at fighting infection and help their lungs, kidneys and brains develop normally. We are very grateful to Bliss and the Newborn Appeal for funding this research which should help improve the survival chances and life quality of future generations of premature babies."
Zoe Chivers, Bliss Innovations Manager, said: "Bliss is thrilled to have funded this ground breaking research which we feel will have a huge impact on outcomes for babies born extremely prematurely. We look forward to seeing the next phase of the project and its implementation into hospitals."