Study Brings Treatment Used On Premature Infants Into Question

One would hope that doctors would only administer a treatment to a child when it has a fair chance of providing a real medical benefit. Recently, a Johns Hopkins Children’s Center study brought into question the effectiveness of one treatment routinely given to premature infants to prevent birth injuries.

The treatment in question is administering nitrous oxide gas. Doctors use this treatment to try to prevent brain injuries, lung problems and death in infants. Reportedly, this treatment is fairly commonly used in the medical care given to premature babies.

However, the recent study brings into question whether this treatment is effective when given to premature babies who were born earlier than 34 weeks into development.

The study found that premature infants who were administered nitrous oxide did not experience any significant health differences from those who did not receive the treatment. The study showed no difference in the occurrence of death, brain disorders or lung problems between these two groups.

The study did show that the treatment had a small positive impact on one indicator of child health. However, the researchers are yet not sure if this demonstrates an actual health benefit.

Thus, the study concluded that nitrous oxide should not be a routine treatment for premature babies who were born earlier than 34 weeks. Rather, the study recommended that this treatment only be used on a case-by-case basis.

This study touches on some important issues regarding the treatments given to babies. One would expect doctors to do everything they could to protect the health of an infant. Administering treatments that aren’t effective could detract from this goal. First, it could unnecessarily expose a child to potential side effects. Also, ineffective treatments can eat up time and resources that could be better spent on more effective methods.

This study brings up some interesting questions regarding the medical use of nitrous oxide on premature babies. One hopes that doctors and hospitals will think about this study’s results when considering this treatment.

Source: Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, “Hold The Gas? Inhaled Nitric Oxide of No Benefit to Most Premature Babies,” 10 Jan 2011