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High one-year survival rate for extremely premature babies

Every day in Sweden, one child is born more than 12 weeks early. Survival for these extremely premature babies is higher in Sweden than elsewhere. But what happens in the long term and what can be improved?

The background to EXPRESS (Extremely Preterm Infant Study in Sweden) is the ongoing debate on care of extremely premature babies and their risk of dying or suffering illness that could lead to future disability. Until now, there has been no national and up-to-date survey of these babies that could provide support on these issues to families, decision-makers and health care professionals.

Håller tumme

Over a three-year period, from 2004 to 2007, data was gathered on all children born in Sweden before the end of the 27th week of pregnancy. A total of 1 011 children were included, of whom 707 were born alive and 304 were stillborn. Ninety-one per cent of the live births were cared for in neonatal intensive care units, and of these, 78% survived to the age of one. The high survival rate is due to active care of the pregnant woman and intensive care and good nursing of the children.

Among the surviving children, just over half (55%) had one or more complications in the neonatal period. Illness in the neonatal period is not the same as permanent disability; a lot of problems can mend with time. However, the high frequency of neonatal problems, and the fact that complications can arise later, mean that the children need to be followed up over a longer period of time. The vision is for our ‘new survivors’ to achieve full health as children and as adults.

Karel Maršál
Professor/Obstetrician at Lund University Hospital
In charge of EXPRESS