Survival Rates Increase for Preterm Infants

USA TODAY, December 2015 | Go to article overview

Survival Rates Increase for Preterm Infants


Extremely preterm infants, those born before the 28th week of pregnancy, are surviving in greater numbers and escaping serious illness, according to a comprehensive review of births. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association--the lead author was Barbara J. Stoll, chair of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga.--reviewed the birth records of more than 35,000 premature infants born since 1993 in 26 U.S. centers participating in the Neonatal Research Network.

Infants born at 23 and 24 weeks survived in greater numbers over the 20-year period. Of those born at 24 weeks, for example, 52% survived in 1993 while 65% survived in 2014. A higher number of premature infants survived without major illnesses. For infants born at 27 weeks, for instance, survival without major illness increased from 29% in 1993 to 47% in 2014.

Among the survivors, the researchers saw an increase in the rate of bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a complication often resulting from respiratory therapy. Improvements in respiratory care appear to have saved many infants who otherwise may have died. Nonetheless, the infants' underdeveloped lungs often sustain damage.

"The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has funded newborn care research for many years," says Rosemary Higgins, who oversees NICHD's Neonatal Research Network. "We're now seeing the results of that investment in improvements in survival and outcomes. …

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