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Premature babies have greater chances of surviving in high-level neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) than in general hospitals, and this benefit is considerably larger than previously reported. The likelihood that an extremely premature baby will survive if born in a high-technology, high-volume hospital unit was already known, but the current study, the largest to date, revealed a stronger effect.
"Prior studies from the early 1990s found increased survival rates of 30 to 50 percent among preterm infants delivered at high-level NICUs, compared to preterm infants delivered elsewhere," said study leader Scott A. Lorch, neonatologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "However, our research found rates as high as 300 percent improvement, when our study design controlled for the effect of sicker patients who typically deliver at high-level NICUs." Complication rates were similar for both types of hospitals," added Lorch.
Paediatric researchers who analyzed more than 1.3 million premature births over a 10-year span found that the survival benefits applied not only to extremely preterm babies, but also to moderately preterm newborns, the journal Paediatrics reports. The research team from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia performed a retrospective study of all hospital-based deliveries of infants with a gestational age between 23 and 37 weeks in Pennsylvania, California and Missouri, a total of over 1,33 million births. The study focused on preterm deliveries in high-level NICUs, compared to preterm deliveries at all other hospitals, according to a Children's Hospital statement.
Premature babies are those born before 37 weeks gestational age (full term is 40 weeks). In this study, the researchers defined extremely preterm infants as those born before 32 weeks and moderately preterm infants as those born between 32 and 37 weeks.
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