[Is it possible to protect the preterm infant brain and to decrease later neurodevelopmental disabilities?]

Arch Pediatr. 2008 Jun:15 Suppl 1:S31-41. doi: 10.1016/S0929-693X(08)73945-9.
[Article in French]


With improving neonatal survival for very premature babies, the challenge for neonatalogists is to ameliorate outcome of surviving babies. Several pharmacological molecules have been shown to have protective effects in different types of in vitro or in vivo animal models of acquired cerebral brain damages. However translational research and conduction of therapeutic trials in human remain difficult due to failure to recognize start of deleterious cascade leading to cerebral damage and additional toxic effect of potential protective molecules. This review concentrates on best evidence emerging in recent years on prevention on brain damage by early drug administration. It has been shown in two randomised trials that prenatal low-dose of magnesium sulphate does not increase paediatric mortality in very-preterm infants and has non significant neuroprotective effects on occurrence of motor dysfunction (with a 0.62 odds ratio in the French trial Premag and 0.71 relative risk in the Australian trial ACTOMgSO4), justifying that magnesium sulphate should be discussed as a stand-alone treatment or as part of a combination treatment, at least in the context of clinical trials. Antenatal corticosteroid therapy increases the survival of very-preterm infants, including the most immature. Moreover in an observational recent study of the Epipage cohort, it has been observed a significant decrease in white matter injury in the 28-32 weeks' gestation group but no effect on long term outcome and behaviour. Conversely in the most immature of the 24-27 weeks' gestation group, no effect has been detected either in white matter injury incidence or in long term outcome rates. Caffeine has a protective effect since a decrease in cerebral palsy has been noted in the caffeine group in a randomised trial studying caffeine versus placebo. For what concern other widely used potential protective molecules during the perinatal period, there is no evidence of cerebral protection with indometacine, nitric oxide, eythropoietin, phenobarbital, and etamsylate. Due to their specific properties, a careful evaluation of aspirin, anaesthetic drugs and tocolytics should be done in the next months.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / prevention & control*
  • Developmental Disabilities / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Neuroprotective Agents