The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility of inducing a prolonged coma in severely asphyxiated newborn babies by the infusion of high dose thiopentone. In six severely asphyxiated babies the electroencephalograph (EEG) and blood pressure were monitored continuously. Thiopentone was infused at a rate sufficient to suppress completely the EEG providing the mean blood pressure remained above 35 mm Hg; it was continued until there was no evidence of cerebral oedema for 24 hours. In two the infusion was stopped prematurely because of hypotension that was unresponsive to treatment. In the other four a deep coma was maintained for a median duration of 127 hours. All developed pharmacodynamic tolerance to the thiopentone and showed non-linear elimination kinetics. Three babies died; the three survivors have moderate to severe handicap. It was concluded that with full intensive care it is possible to induce a deep coma; the outcome does not seem to be improved, however, and the incidence of complications was high.
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