Premature babies are monitored and given the best care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). These babies face development issues like brain development, weight gain, hearing, eyesight, lung function etc. until they grow up. The researchers from the University of Calgary, Canada have found that a daily dose of caffeine boosts the brain development and lung function of pre-term babies. These babies were born under 29 weeks. Caffeine intake aids in the growth of dendrite which receives a signal from other neurons in the brain according to the researchers.
This research was published in the journal Pediatrics. School of medicine at the University of Calgary and a neonatologist in Alberta health services. He has conducted this study along with his team. He associated with the Mount Sinai Hospital and researchers from the University of British Columbia. They analyzed medical records from across 26 NICUs in Canada.
The breathing areas in the brain take time to mature for these babies. The babies were given caffeine until they are 34 or 35 weeks old when they can breathe on their own. If the baby is given caffeine as early as possible in the first or second day, the better is the outcome. This therapy helps in the prevention of chronic lung disease known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia.
The research revealed that there are no long-term side effects on neurodevelopment by giving an early dose of caffeine. It actually seems to increase cognitive development. The other benefit includes the prevention of cerebral palsy and loss of hearing. According to Dr. Lodha, caffeine is an important drug after antibiotic in NICUs. He also felt that the long-term effect of caffeine as treatment should be understood. Finally, Dr. Lodha also perceived that the premature babies should not only survive but also have quality life afterward.
Dr. Lodha and his team studied the development of these toddlers from age 18 to 24 months. These children were assessed for their motor skills, language development and cognitive capabilities based on standard scoring method. They scored well in all these tests.