The effect at two years-of-age on babies treated with dextrose gel at birth

Are babies treated with dextrose gel, a measure for reducing low blood sugar in babies, symptom-free at two years of age?

Professor Jane Harding
University of Auckland

What is the problem and how does it affect babies?

Hypoglycaemia, which means a low blood sugar concentration, is the only readily preventable cause of brain damage in newborn babies. Up to 15% of newborn babies will have low blood sugar concentrations. However, this number is higher when the mother has diabetes (50%) or the baby is born preterm (60%).
Neonatal hypoglycaemia, if untreated, can lead to long-lasting adverse effects including neurological damage resulting in developmental delay and blindness. Hypoglycaemia is usually treated with additional feeding, often with formula or, if more severe, with admission to newborn intensive care for intravenous glucose. Both formula and admission to intensive care can reduce later breast-feeding rates, which can lead to poorer later health and development.


What is this research hoping to achieve?

Professor Harding and her team have shown previously that rubbing dextrose gel into a baby’s cheek is a simple, safe, inexpensive and non-invasive treatment to reverse neonatal hypoglycaemia. They are now looking to see if the gel can be used as a preventive measure.

The primary outcomes are to reduce admission rates to neonatal intensive care, and to increase breast-feeding. In any study, however, it is also important to determine whether the intervention itself has any later adverse effects.

This project is a two-year follow-up of the participants of a pilot study whom of which were adminstered dextrose gel to prevent neonatal hypoglycaemia. The study will assess children’s development, growth and health, to determine if preventative gel causes any later benefits or harms at two years of age.

If results of the two-year follow-up are positive, nationwide prevention of hypoglycaemia could become a reality in the future.