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Gestational Age Not Sole Predictor of Preemie Survival
Date:4/17/2008

Four other factors, including gender and weight, play role in infant's chances, study finds ,,,,

WEDNESDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to the survival of premature infants, the factor that doctors have traditionally focused on is gestational age, but a new study suggests that gestational age is just one of several factors that physicians and parents should consider when deciding what treatment, if any, is best.

The factors that can help physicians predict a very premature infant's chance of survival include gestational age, gender, birth weight, whether it's a single or multiple birth, and whether or not the mother took corticosteroids before the baby was born.

"Using these five factors in combination can really enhance judgment and inform physicians and parents," said study co-author Dr. Rosemary Higgins, a program scientist for the Neonatal Research Network, part of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in Bethesda, Md.

But, she added, "Every child is an individual, and each decision needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. But this study reflects the overall experience for infants in our network and provides one more piece of information to use in determining the best course of action."

Determining the best course of action is often difficult when it comes to the most frail preterm infants. A normal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. Babies born between 22 and 25 weeks' gestation have high mortality rates, and if they do survive, many have lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss, blindness and cerebral palsy. Still, others survive and reach adulthood, seemingly unaffected by their early birth.

Some neonatal centers provide intensive care to every premature baby, no matter what their odds of survival are. Other centers may provide intensive care for 23- and 24-week-old preemies only with parental consent, and some only provide
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