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Trial cuts premature birth deaths

The prospect of reducing the number of premature babies who die or who are born with severe disabilities has taken a step forward with the development of a "brainwashing" technique.

The technique enables the removal of a toxic fluid which can harm babies born too early or born with brain haemorrhages.

Researchers discovered that tubes inserted into the brain of a premature baby can simultaneously drain fluid and allow clear fluid to go in, allowing the baby's brain to decompress. The procedure takes around three days to complete.

Andrew Whitelaw, Professor of Neonatal Medicine at the University of Bristol, and Ian Pople, Paediatric Neurosurgeon at North Bristol NHS Trust, were in charge of the study. They showed that the number of deaths and severe disabilities in a group of premature babies were reduced through the use of their technique.

Research charity Cerebra and James & Grace Anderson Trust funded the study.

Mr Pople said: "It is hoped that in the very near future it will be set up as a service at Southmead Hospital in Bristol."

North Bristol NHS Trust