A newborn baby has become the first in the world to receive xenon gas treatment, pioneered in Bristol in a bid to prevent brain injury.
Riley Joyce had no pulse and was not breathing when he was first delivered by emergency Caesarean section at the Royal United Hospital, Bath.
He had a 50:50 chance of permanent brain injury and was transferred to St Michael’s Hospital, Bristol.
His parents agreed to the experimental treatment and Riley is now doing well.
Every year in the UK more than 1,000 otherwise healthy babies born at full term die or suffer brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen or blood supply at birth.
The xenon technique was developed by Marianne Thoreson, professor of neonatal neuroscience at the University of Bristol, and Dr John Dingley, consultant anaesthetist at Swansea University’s School of Medicine.
The professor has pioneered new treatments at the hospital since 1998 when she began cooling babies to reduce damage in the newborn brain.
However, cooling only partly reduces disability and does not prevent it in all babies.
She said: “Over the past eight years, we have shown in the laboratory that xenon doubles the protective effect of cooling on the brain.
“However we faced the challenge of how to safely and effectively deliver this rare and extremely expensive gas to newborn babies.”
Dr Dingley, who invented a machine to deliver the gas, said: “A key design feature of this machine is that it is very efficient, using less than 200ml of xenon per hour – less than the volume of a soft drinks can.
“Xenon is a precious and finite resource and difficult to extract so it can cost up to £30 a litre.
“As ventilated newborns breathe many litres of air per minute, any xenon-based treatment would be impossibly expensive without an economical delivery method.”
The device is now authorised for clinical trials and will be used on a minimum of 12 babies over the coming months in a feasibility trial before it can be used on a larger scale. …