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Phototherapy 'may help' premature babies

Phototherapy could prevent the development of conditions such as cerebral palsy in some premature infants.
New research has found that aggressive phototherapy may reduce the chances of premature infants developing neurodevelopmental impairment such as cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness or physical or mental challenges in later life.

Phototherapy involves exposure to light for a prescribed period of time. It is frequently used to treat neonatal jaundice - a yellowing of the skin that occurs when red blood cells are being broken down too quickly for the liver to process.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved nearly 2,000 infants who were born at low birth weights ranging from 501 to 1,000 grams between September 2002 and April 2005.

It was discovered that there was a 14 per cent reduction in neurodevelopment impairment with aggressive phototherapy, which was noted as being a "significant" risk reduction.

Authors also noted that there was no evidence of harm to the larger infants in the study.

Study co-author Jon E Tyson, professor of paediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, said: "Before this study, we had very limited information from clinical research to indicate how phototherapy should be used in small premature babies.

"With all the advances in obstetric and neonatal care, these infants are much more likely to survive today, and we need large clinical trials like this to know how to achieve the best possible long-term outcomes."

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