Lead researcher: Dr Gemma Sullivan, Supervisor: Professor Ben Stenson, Consultant Neonatologist, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary

Sum awarded: £21,500

Other funding: None

Duration of study: The study will involve surveying neonatal units for 24 months, with checks on surviving babies at 2 years of age

Sometimes, babies encounter problems during labour and delivery and their heart stops beating.  This leads to a reduction in the supply of blood and oxygen to their brain and they need help to get their heart to start again. This process is known as resuscitation and occurs immediately after birth. If there’s a severe lack of blood and oxygen, there can be an injury to the brain that can be fatal or lead to long-term disabilities.

Why is the research needed?

International guidelines advise doctors to consider stopping resuscitation if the heartbeat does not return by 10 minutes. This recommendation is based on studies reporting that the risk of death or serious disability for these babies is very high. But these studies are quite old, and involved babies born more than 10 years ago. In recent years, doctors have started to use cooling treatment for babies who suffer a brain injury around the time of birth, and this may have improved the outlook for surviving babies. It may be that the guidelines are no longer appropriate.

What will the researchers do?

This study aims to identify babies born at term (at the end of a full-length pregnancy) in the UK and Republic of Ireland who receive prolonged resuscitation after delivery and still have no heartbeat detected at 10 minutes. The team will look at how many of these babies go on to survive and whether or not they have long-term problems with development as they grow up.

This study will provide important information on the outlook for these babies and help to ensure that decisions regarding resuscitation and ongoing intensive care are made in the best interests of babies and their families.

This will help doctors to give more accurate counselling to parents of babies who need prolonged resuscitation at birth and will help to improve family-centred bereavement care when babies do not survive.

What we expect from the study

Up-to-date information that can help discussions with families about the outlook for babies who have no heartbeat after 10 mins of resuscitation from birth.

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