Neonatal interventions for preventing cerebral palsy

Salam et al, Cochrane Systematic Review.20 June 2018


Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that encompasses disorders of movement and posture attributed to non‐progressive disturbances occurring in the developing foetal or infant brain. As there are diverse risk factors and aetiologies, no one strategy will prevent cerebral palsy. Therefore, there is a need to systematically consider all potentially relevant interventions for prevention.

This overview summarises evidence from Cochrane Systematic Reviews regarding effects of neonatal interventions on cerebral palsy, and can be used by researchers, funding bodies, policy makers, clinicians, and consumers to aid decision‐making and evidence translation. To formally assess other benefits and/or harms of included interventions, including impact on risk factors for cerebral palsy, review of the included Reviews is recommended.

Therapeutic hypothermia versus standard care for newborns with hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy can prevent cerebral palsy, and prophylactic methylxanthines (caffeine) versus placebo for endotracheal extubation in preterm infants may reduce cerebral palsy risk. Early (at less than eight days of age) postnatal corticosteroids versus placebo or no treatment for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants may increase cerebral palsy risk.

Cerebral palsy is rarely identified at birth, has diverse risk factors and aetiologies, and is diagnosed in approximately one in 500 children. To date, only a small proportion of Cochrane Systematic Reviews assessing neonatal interventions have been able to report on this outcome. There is an urgent need for long‐term follow‐up of RCTs of such interventions addressing risk factors for cerebral palsy (through strategies such as data linkage with registries) and for consideration of the use of relatively new interim assessments (including the General Movements Assessment). Such RCTs must be rigorous in their design and must aim for consistency in cerebral palsy outcome measurement and reporting to facilitate pooling of data and thus to maximise research efforts focused on prevention.