Magnesium sulphate as a neuroprotector in preterm birth and approaches to change in clinical practice

Babies born too early (preterm) have a higher risk of dying in the first weeks of life than babies born at full-term. Those who survive often have damage including cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness or physical disabilities. Magnesium sulphate, used as a neuroprotective factor in pre-term birth, can prevent this damage.

Magnesium sulphate therapy given to women at risk of preterm birth substantially reduces the risk of cerebral palsy in their child. But uptake in the UK has been relatively low (12 per cent) compared with other countries (over 50 per cent in the USA and Australia).

The West of England Academic Health Science Network undertook an ‘evidence into practice’ project (PreCePT) in partnership with five member trusts from February 2014 to March 2015. It aimed to increase the uptake of magnesium sulphate in the target group to 95 per cent. The first site showed an increased uptake (from 7 per cent to 60 per cent) within six months.

Project aims

CLAHRC West is carrying out a quantitative evaluation of the PreCePT project. We are looking at the impact on improved uptake of magnesium sulphate and monitoring this uptake in the long-term in the individual trusts. Preliminary findings show considerably higher uptake than the UK average following the PreCePT project.

In the longer term, we are assessing the impact on neurodisability in those children whose mothers received magnesium sulphate. We will carry out preparatory work towards an analysis of national registry data.

We will also explore opportunities to evaluate the effectiveness, including an economic evaluation, of the PreCePT intervention.

Anticipated impacts

The study will show whether the PreCePT intervention significantly improved uptake of magnesium sulphate in participating trusts. It will allow future evaluation of the long term impact on neurological disabilities. We also hope to find partners and funding to roll-out the PreCePT intervention outside the West region and evaluate its effectiveness.

Lead collaborators

Partners on this project

University of Bristol

The University of Bristol is internationally renowned and one of the very best in the UK, due to its outstanding teaching and research, its superb facilities and highly talented students and staff. Its students thrive in a rich academic environment which is informed by world-leading research. It hosts the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research.