Caffeine therapy may help premature babies’ brains: Study

TORONTO: A daily dose of caffeine may safely boost the brain development and lung function in premature babies, according to researchers, including one of Indian origin.

In neonatal intensive care units, or NICUs, premature babies born under 29 weeks are given a daily dose of caffeine to ensure the best possible start to life, said researchers from the University of Calgary in Canada.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, shows the earlier the dose of caffeine can be given, the better.

“Caffeine is the most commonly used drug in the NICU after antibiotics,” said Abhay Lodha, an associate professor at the University of Calgary.

“It’s important that we understand the long-term effects of caffeine as a treatment and ensure these babies are not only surviving, but have quality of life down the road,” Lodha said.

He collaborated with researchers from the University of British Columbia and Mount Sinai Hospital to analyse data from 26 NICUs across Canada.

They found early caffeine treatment has no long-term negative effects on neurodevelopment, and is actually associated with better cognitive scores, and reduced odds of cerebral palsy and hearing impairment.

The team examined data from follow-up assessments conducted at age 18 to 24 months.

During these follow-ups, children were assessed for their cognitive, language and motor development using a standardised scoring system to assess developmental functioning in infants and toddlers.

“We look at how children are constructing their understanding, such as solving simple problems or figuring out three-dimensional objects and toys,” said Dianne Creighton, an assistant professor at Alberta Health Services (AHS).

“We also assess how the little ones are able to understand simple words, or recognise the name of a picture, as well as their motor skills like climbing, crawling, balance and co-ordination,” Creighton said.

Lodha said it is believed that caffeine may increase the growth of dendrites, the small branches of a neuron that receive signals from other neurons.

“Caffeine may also improve better lung stretch and expansion, cardiac output and blood pressure in premature infants, which improves oxygen supply throughout the body and brain, reducing the duration of mechanical ventilation and the risk of chronic lung disease and injury on the developing brain,” he said. (AGENCIES)


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