Thursday, December 7, 2006
Medical Reports: Preemie Predictor
A premature baby is born nearly every minute. It's always a miracle when they survive, but even newborns who do can face lifelong disabilities or developmental problems. Now, as 7's Diana Diaz shows us, there's a way to detect those problems early with a preemie predictor.
WSVN -- They're tiny and fragile. Preemies are the most vulnerable newborns, often fighting for life. A fight this mom knows all about.
Mom: "Yeah ... are you happy?"
Heather Little's twin girls were born nine weeks early. Together, they weighed less than seven pounds. Heather makes the girls do daily exercises to keep them strong. But the worry is still there.
Heather Little: "They're right on target as of now, but you still wonder what will happen in the future."
And her concern is real. More than half of premature babies will suffer some sort of developmental problem that often goes undetected until later in life.
Dr. Terrie Inder: "You can see now more extensive injury."
But researchers have just discovered that MRI scans can help predict which preemies will have problems.
By looking at the brain's development in the first two years of life. They can track abnormalities in different areas of the brain.
For example, this scan shows a healthy infant brain. But this one shows missing white matter, a sign of significant motor and cognitive disabilities.
Dr. Terrie Inder: "Instead of just knowing there's a bit of a risk, we can be much more definite and say there's either very, very low risk or actually very high risk."
This gives doctors and parents an early shot at deciding what kind of therapies a child might need.
Dr. Terrie Inder: "It's very hard to overcome these disabilities once they are established by the age of two."
In the Little's case, only the smaller twin, Sophia, was identified as needing therapy. But this mom isn't taking any chances. She's working with both girls, and so far the twins are meeting all their milestones.
Previous technology, like cranial ultrasounds, did not pick up abnormalities.Now, researchers hope MRIs can be used as proof for insurance companies in covering therapies.
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