The survival rates of extremely premature babies are improving

NICU preemieAdvances in treatment options may be helping to increase survival rates and reduce the number of complications for extremely premature babies, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study looked at 34,636 infants born between 22-28 weeks over 20 years (1993-2012). The researchers found that the overall rate of survival for premature babies born between 22-28 weeks increased from 70% in 1993 to 79% in 2012.

According to the researchers, “Survival rates remained unchanged from1993 through 2008. After 2008, trends in survival varied by gestational age.”

  • For babies born at 23-weeks, the survival rate rose from 27% in 2009 to 33% in 2012.
  • For babies born at 24-weeks, the survival rate rose from 63% in 2009 to 65% in 2012.
  • There were smaller increases for babies born at 25 weeks and 27 weeks.
  • There was, however, no change reported for babies born at 22, 26, and 28 weeks.

The researchers also looked at how many babies survived extreme premature birth without developing major neonatal health problems. They found that the rate of survival without major complications increased approximately 2% per year for babies born between 25-28 weeks.  However, there was no change in survival without major complications for babies born between 22 to 24 weeks.

The authors of the study also observed changes in maternal and infant care which may have contributed to the increased survival rates. For instance, the use of corticosteroids prior to birth rose to 87% in 2012 (vs. 24% in 1993). Corticosteroids help to speed up your baby’s lung development. While most babies were put on a ventilator (a breathing machine that delivers warmed and humidified air to a baby’s lungs), continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) without ventilation increased from 7% in 2002 to 11% in 2012. And the rate of late-onset infection decreased for all gestational ages.

“For parents of babies born very early — 22-28 weeks — these data are showing improvements in outcome. We are gratified by the progress, but there is so much more that could be done if we could understand what causes premature labor and birth,” said Dr. Edward McCabe, Chief Medical Officer for The March of Dimes.

“Our focus is on preventing premature births and we are making excellent progress,” he said. “We have saved hundreds of thousands of babies from premature birth since the rate peaked in 2006.”

You can read more about our Prematurity Campaign and our Prematurity Research Centers on our website.

Questions? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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