Monday, July 11, 2005

Mary alerted me to a story in the Chicago Tribune last week about the use of nitric oxide to help premature babies. As has often been the case with things like this, a story that once would have been skipped over is now read with intense interest. It talks about two studies on the use of nitric oxide and the fact that they came back with contradictory results.

Will was on nitric oxide therapy for much of his short life, so we're curious to see data about its effectiveness. Will started out in a similar study being conducted by his attending physician. He was a prime candidate for the therapy because of his underdeveloped lungs. Early on in his treatment, he wouldn't necessarily have been put on nitric oxide, but because the NICU was helping to conduct the study, we were asked if Will could participate. Because nitric oxide is thought to help underdeveloped lungs and we knew that our son would need all the help he could get, we agreed. It was a blind study, so we had no idea if the tanks hooked up to his ventilator had nitric oxide or some benign control gas. As Will's condition worsened early on, they pulled him out of the study to make sure he actually was getting nitric oxide; the doctors were confident enough of its effectiveness that they wanted him to be on it.

So, did it help? Who knows? It certainly doesn't seem to have hurt, and even the study cited in the Tribune article that calls into question its effects doesn't suggest that it does harm so much as that it has no real benefit. Regardless, it is important research that we never would have known about or thought to have an impact on our lives. Our experience with Will certainly opened our eyes, and I know that I read about all sorts of medical news now with a fresh perspective: You never know when something is going to hit close to home.


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