Fetal or neonatal brain injury can result in lifelong neurologic disability. The most significant risk factor for perinatal brain injury is prematurity; however, in absolute numbers, full-term infants represent the majority of affected children. Research on strategies to prevent or mitigate the impact of perinatal brain injury ("perinatal neuroprotection") has established the mitigating roles of magnesium sulfate administration for preterm infants and therapeutic hypothermia for term infants with suspected perinatal brain injury. Banked umbilical cord blood, erythropoietin, and a number of other agents that may improve neuronal repair show promise for improving outcomes following perinatal brain injury in animal models. Other preventative strategies include delayed umbilical cord clamping in preterm infants and progesterone in women with prior preterm birth or short cervix and avoidance of infections. Despite these advances, we have not successfully decreased the rate of preterm birth, nor are we able to predict term infants at risk of hypoxic brain injury in order to intervene prior to the hypoxic event. Further, we lack the ability to modulate the sequelae of neuronal cell insults or the ability to repair brain injury after it has been sustained. As a consequence, despite exciting advances in the field of perinatal neuroprotection, perinatal brain injury still impacts thousands of newborns each year with significant long-term morbidity and mortality.
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