New studies confirm improved survival of extremely preterm babies

  • Wednesday 27, March 2019 09:32 AM
  • New studies confirm improved survival of extremely preterm babies
Sharjah 24 – AFP: Survival rates of extremely preterm infants have improved by leaps and bounds since the 1980s, with US and Swedish studies published this week providing new data on the trend.
Doctors previously estimated the earliest gestational age a baby could be considered viable outside the womb was 28 weeks, when they weigh around 2.2 pounds (one kilogram) , about 12 weeks short of the 40-week length of a normal pregnancy. Babies are considered premature under the 37-week mark.

But over the last nearly 40 years, that 28-week limit has steadily dropped, and now some babies delivered at 24, 23 or even 22 weeks (measured from their mothers' last menstruation) are able to survive, even as they weigh 1.1 pounds or less.

A Japanese baby who weighed only 9.44 ounces (268 grams) when he was born at 24 weeks made headlines in February: he was headed home in good health after five months in the hospital.

Sweden holds the world record for earliest neonatal viability: 77 percent of babies born between 22 and 26 weeks in 2014 to 2016 survived one year, up from a 70 percent about 10 years before, according to a study published Tuesday in the the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

In those 10 years, Sweden standardised its procedures for neonatal advanced life support: immediate intubation at birth, administration of drugs and a quick transfer to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Nearly 90 percent of deliveries in Sweden now occur in one of six hospitals in the country that have top-level NICUs.

For infants younger than 22 weeks, the survival rate has improved from 3.6 percent to 20 percent over the last decade, and for those born at 26 weeks, eight in 10 survive.