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'Brain washing' could reduce death and disability in premature babies

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A pioneering ‘brain washing’ technique could soon be used in hospitals to reduce the risk of brain damage in premature babies.

The process involves removing toxic and potentially harmful fluid from the brain of a baby suffering from a large haemorrhage. Two small tubes are inserted into the organ’s ventricles - one to drain out fluid and another to let clear fluid in. The pressure in the brain is measured continuously to ensure it slowly decompresses.

Research conducted by Andrew Whitelaw, of the University of Bristol, and Ian Pople, paediatric neurosurgeon at North Bristol NHS Trust, showed the technique, which takes around three days to complete, significantly reduced the number of deaths and severe disabilities in a test group.

“It is hoped that in the very near future it will be set up as a service at Southmead Hospital in Bristol,” said Mr Pople.

The trials, funded by grants from research charity Cerebra and the James and Grace Anderson Trust, were published online in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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