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The Royal Hospital for Women has a reputation for ground-breaking research and justifiably so. New research led by one of The Royal’s neonatologists Dr Tim Schindler will potentially help many premature babies worldwide.

Dr Schindler and his team in the hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit have just completed a clinical trial that has found that paracetamol helps with a common yet serious problem for premature babies.

The trial of 58 babies showed that early treatment with paracetamol reduced the need for intervention to close a fetal blood vessel in premature babies after birth, a condition that affects ,many preterm babies.

The Ductus Arteriosus is a fetal blood vessel just outside the heart that is supposed to close after a baby is born. When it fails to close in a preterm baby it is called a Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA). This allows blood to flow to the lungs, making it difficult for a baby to breathe.

Medications traditionally used to treat the condition have potential side effects that risk damaging other organs in these tiny patient’s bodies, including the kidneys and gastrointestinal system. This can sometimes lead to a perforation of the bowel.

The new trial was conducted on babies aged between 23 and 28 weeks with PDA between November 2016 and March 2019. The premature babies were given paracetamol for five days every six hours from the day they were born.

Paracetamol, Dr Schindler said, “significantly reduced the number of infants requiring intervention for PDA.”

“It takes a huge effort from a large research team and all of the clinical staff to conduct research and it does not always lead to a successful conclusion,” Dr Schindler said. “It’s satisfying to achieve a result where we can now have an effective alternative medication that reduces the risk of harmful side effects in these vulnerable babies.”

The NICU team’s research was supported by the Running for Premature Babies Foundation working closely with the Royal Hospital for Women Foundation.

If you’d like to help raise money for other important research for premature babies at The Royal, please make a donation during the month of June to our Heart for Her Campaign. Every donation will help fund equipment, programs and research at The Royal Hospital for Women.