Preterm births: better chances of survival but the rate of neonatal complications remains unchanged

Publié le : 18 December 2012

 A large-scale British study undertaken between 1995 and 2006 revealed that "despite major progress in treatment, prematurity continues to entail a high level of neonatalcomplications." In fact, "the number of very early pre-term births aged 22 to 25 weeks of amenorrhea increased by 44% over the period, while their chance of surviving increased by 13%." The study points out that in 2006 "3,133 births of ‘very great’ or ‘extreme’ prematurity, between 22 and 26 weeks of amenorrhea were recorded" and "the number of admissions of newborn babies aged 22-25 weeks in neonatology units rose from 666 in 1995 to 1,115 in 2006." Furthermore, with regard to "the principal complications linked to prematurity, i.e. pulmonary bronchodysplasia, severe cerebral damage, hypotrophy and microencephaly, the proportion of children affected was the same in 1995 and 2006". Lastly, "for retinopathies, the proportion of children affected rose strangely from 13% to 22%, probably due to better screening.

The authors of the study warn: "admissions increasing, the chance of survival rising and an unchanged rate of complications" suggest that, "with the total number of pre-terms born without a disability on the rise, the number of long-term health problem will also rise."
They add, however, that the reassuring figures concerning the survival of pre-terms is explained by an improvement in neonatology practices, as well as "the promotion of breast-feeding and less administration of corticosteroids in postnatal care," the latter having "dropped from 71% to 21%, and for half of the time (from 21 to 12 days)". 
Since 2006, the authors explain, "it is not very likely that the morbidity rate has changed significantly […] owing to the lesser modifications in neonatology procedures.

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