Vitamin C and encephalopathy

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is brain damage that results from a shortage of oxygen or blood flow.

Researchers from Washington DC and Cairo, Egypt combined intravenous injections of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) with ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin; a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to this condition.

First, the details.

  • 60 asphyxiated infants were assigned to a treatment group.
    • Ascorbic acid injected into a vein + ibuprofen taken by mouth for 3 days
    • Placebo
  • Neither the researchers nor the patients knew the treatment given — double blind.

And, the results.

  • There were no differences between groups in the severity of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy at enrollment.
  • There were no differences between groups in the following outcomes.
    • Concentrations of IL-1beta and IL-6 (proteins that affect immunity and inflammation)
    • Mortality
    • Nerve abnormalities at hospital discharge
    • Developmental delay at 6 months of age
  • IL-1beta and IL-6 blood levels correlated with the severity of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy at birth.
  • But only serum IL-6 correlated with neurodevelopmental outcome at 6 months.

The bottom line?
The anti-oxidant action of vitamin C had no effect on the outcome of this condition.

The authors acknowledge that these results do not address issues related to dosing and route of administration of vitamin C or ibuprofen.

3/19/09 18:13 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.