Higgins et al. recently published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine regarding the survival rate of preterm infants who were born between 22 and 24 weeks of gestation instead of a regular 40 weeks taking pregnancy. Between 2000 and 2011, their survival rate rose from 30 to 36 per cent. A second finding was the fact that the percentage of those surviving infants who did not develop neurological impairments increased from 16 to 20 per cent. For the study, researchers gathered data for 4,000 extremely premature infants born in the US.
The scientists assume that better antenatal health care for expectant mothers and newborns are responsible for these positive developments. In addition, the wider use of steroids in women who are at risk of preterm birth might contribute to this as well. Drugs like steroids and surfactant help the lung to develop and reduce the need for ventilation that go along with a higher risk of damaging pulmonary alveoli and infections.
The researchers admit that the study has some limitations: Only preterm infants born at tertiary care centres were included in the research whereas infants born at general community hospitals or other large hospitals were not included.
View more (The Washington Post)