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More premature babies surviving

5th December 2012

Data published in the British Medical Journal has shown that higher numbers of babies born before 26 weeks survive than in previous years.

Baby Ward

A study carried out by EPICure, funded by the Medical Research Council, showed premature babies born before 26 weeks had more likelihood of survival in 2006 than in 1995.

The research involved premature babies born at hospitals in England in 1995 and 2006.

The researchers found that in 1995, 40% of babies born between 22-25 weeks and treated in intensive care survived, compared with 53% in 2006.

Survival rates did not improve, however, for babies born at 22 and 23 weeks, which is before the legal abortion limit.

Researcher Professor Kate Costeloe, from Homerton University Hospital and Queen Mary, University of London, said: "Yes we do have increased survival of these babies, but that increase is all happening in the first week of life. It's very disappointing that they are not doing any better having survived the first week."

Professor Costeloe said survival rates prior to 24 weeks were "terribly small".

At 22 weeks, just 2% of 152 live births survived, compared to 66% of 521 live births at 25 weeks.

Another report looked at how healthy premature babies were by the time they reached the age of three.

The data showed 34% of babies who had been admitted to neonatal care in 2006 were "completely healthy", in comparison to 23% in 1995.

Dr Simon Newell, a consultant in neonatal medicine at Leeds General Infirmary and vice-president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "We can only protect so much from the effects of immaturity."

"We are going very carefully from when life is not possible to when independent life is possible and protecting the brain through that journey." 

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