The costs due to complications from preterm birth are staggering. In Canada, outlays for specialized care of surviving preterm infants are estimated to be almost $2 billion per year. In a 5-year, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study, researchers found that giving nitroglycerin to mothers who had entered premature labour led to significant improvement in their baby’s health. The results of the study are reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

In previous studies of drugs to suppress labour contractions to allow the foetus more time to develop in utero, some drugs were able to delay delivery, but none improved the baby’s health outcome. This study is the first to show that the baby benefited from the therapy, especially those who are born very prematurely (at 24 to 28 weeks). Using a composite measure of the newborn’s health including perinatal death, markers of brain damage and serious lung and bowel complications, mothers treated with nitroglycerin had significantly healthier babies.

Graeme N. Smith, MD, PhD, states, “Our team is very excited about these findings. It is estimated that it costs the Canadian health system almost $2 billion a year to take care of premature babies and their medical complications. Given the immeasurable societal and family costs associated with preterm birth and having a sick baby or child, treatment with nitroglycerin may result in major cost saving and longer-term health benefits for these babies.”

MEDICA.de; Source: Elsevier