Infant Breathes Xenon, Avoids Brain Injury

BRISTOL, England, April 9 (UPI) — British doctors helped a newborn baby boy avoid serious brain injury from lack of oxygen by giving him xenon gas to breathe, a medical first, the doctors said.

Newborn Riley Joyce was given a 50-50 chance of permanent injury and disability when he was rushed to St. Michael’s Hospital, a university hospital in Bristol, England, unable to breathe properly.


His parents, Dave and Sarah Joyce, agreed that Riley could become the first baby to inhale xenon gas, in an experimental treatment, in the hope he would make a full recovery, London’s Daily Mail reported.

Xenon is a colorless, odorless gas that is heavy and inert and is sometimes used as a general anesthetic, although it is expensive. It occurs in the earth’s atmosphere in trace amounts.

Neonatal Neuroscience Professor Marianne Thoresen of the University of Bristol and colleague Dr. James Tooley lowered Riley’s body temperature to 92.3 degrees Fahrenheit, then connected his breathing machine to a xenon delivery system for three hours.

Riley was kept cool for 72 hours, then slowly rewarmed. He started breathing without the machine on Day 5, the Mail said.

“After seven days, Riley was alert, able to look at his mother’s face, hold up his head and begin to take milk,” said Thoresen, who pioneered the technique with Dr. John Dingley from Swansea University in Wales.

Clinical trials had shown that lowering a baby’s body temperature by only a few degrees for 72 hours is a safe and beneficial treatment for lack of oxygen or blood supply at birth.

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