Need for more evidence in the prevention and management of perinatal asphyxia and neonatal encephalopathy in low and middle-income countries: A call for action
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Although low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) shoulder 90 % of the neonatal encephalopathy (NE) burden, there is very little evidence base for prevention or management of this condition in these settings. A variety of antenatal factors including socio-economic deprivation, undernutrition and sub optimal antenatal and intrapartum care increase the risk of NE, although little is known about the underlying mechanisms. Implementing interventions based on the evidence from high-income countries to LMICs, may cause more harm than benefit as shown by the increased mortality and lack of neuroprotection with cooling therapy in the hypothermia for moderate or severe NE in low and middle-income countries (HELIX) trial. Pooled data from pilot trials suggest that erythropoietin monotherapy reduces death and disability in LMICs, but this needs further evaluation in clinical trials. Careful attention to supportive care, including avoiding hyperoxia, hypocarbia, hypoglycemia, and hyperthermia, are likely to improve outcomes until specific neuroprotective or neurorestorative therapies available.