A new study has revealed that babies born prematurely, who have infant respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS), may have a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy.

The study, which was conducted by researchers in Denmark and published in the British Medical Journal, looked at all infants born during 32 to 36 full gestational weeks in Denmark from 1997 to 2007, with and without IRDS.

The team identified 39,420 babies born prematurely, of whom a total of 2,255 (5.7 per cent) were diagnosed with IRDS. They discovered that 1.9 per cent of the premature babies who had IRDS later developed cerebral palsy, while this ratio was only 0.5 per cent in premature babies who did not have IRDS.

The risk of cerebral palsy in premature babies with IRDS increased further if they were also diagnosed with intracerebral haemorrhage (ICH), a condition where blood suddenly bursts into the brain tissue, or intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH), where bleeding occurs in the ventricles inside the brain.

Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects muscle control and movement, which ranges in severity from one person to another. It's usually caused by an injury to the brain before, during or after birth and, in the UK, it affects around one in every 400 children. There is no cure for the condition, although rehabilitation such as physiotherapy can help sufferers better manage the condition and become more independent.

Thompsons has worked with thousands of people suffering with cerebral palsy. Bilaal was diagnosed with severe dystonic athetoid cerebral palsy after being starved of oxygen for eight minutes shortly after his birth. Read more about Bilaal’s story here.

Linda Millband, national practice lead of the clinical negligence team at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Any findings that furthers our understanding into cerebral palsy and its causes are to be welcomed. Hopefully the results of this study can now assist with planning follow-up and intervention strategies in children who are born prematurely.

“Our medical negligence solicitors have worked with many people with the condition and understand the long-term care needs often required for each individual. Through our relationships with support groups, we’re able to help sufferers make adaptations to their homes so that they and their families can better manage the condition.

“While we understand that medical research needs to be fully vetted before implementation, it’s important that the government considers the implications of this study so that it can help inform future practice and, in turn, reduce the number of children being diagnosed with the condition.”