Antenatal magnesium sulphate neuroprotection in the preterm infant
Very preterm infants have high rates of neurological impairments and disabilities. These rates have not diminished as the survival rates have improved. Basic science research suggests that magnesium sulphate before birth can be neuroprotective for the preterm fetus. Some, but not all, observational studies in humans also suggest a protective effect of antenatal magnesium sulphate on cerebral palsy. Four randomised controlled trials of antenatal magnesium sulphate have reported long-term neurological effects in surviving infants, but only one of these was designed specifically to evaluate the long-term effects of treatment. These studies found that, overall, antenatal magnesium sulphate therapy had no significant effect on paediatric mortality or neurological outcomes in the first few years of life, including cerebral palsy, but it was found to lower the rate of motor problems at 2 years of age in one study. The role for antenatal magnesium sulphate therapy as a neuroprotective agent for the preterm fetus is not yet established.