Hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy continues to be a significant cause of death and disability worldwide. In the last 1-2 years, therapeutic hypothermia has entered clinical practice in industrialized countries and neuroprotection of the newborn has become a reality. The benefits and safety of cooling under intensive care settings have been shown consistently in trials; therapeutic hypothermia reduces death and neurological impairment at 18 months with a number needed to treat of approximately nine. Unfortunately, around half the infants who receive therapeutic hypothermia still have abnormal outcomes. Recent experimental data suggest that the addition of another agent to cooling may enhance overall protection either additively or synergistically. This review discusses agents such as inhaled xenon, N-acetylcysteine, melatonin, erythropoietin and anticonvulsants. The role of biomarkers to speed up clinical translation is discussed, in particular, the use of the cerebral magnetic resonance spectroscopy lactate/N-acetyl aspartate peak area ratios to provide early prognostic information. Finally, potential future therapies such as regeneration/repair and postconditioning are discussed.
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