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Life Support Increases Odds for Very Premature Infants

About 67 percent of infants at a gestational age of 22 to 23 weeks survived with life support

TUESDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- With life support, about 67 percent of infants born at 22 to 23 weeks' gestation and 82 percent born at 24 weeks' gestation survived in a recent study, with similar rates of morbidity, according to a report in the July issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Susanne Herber-Jonat, M.D., of the University of Munich in Germany, and colleagues studied 336 infants who were born at 22 to 24 weeks' gestation at three hospitals in Germany between 1999 and 2003. The authors note that the hospitals usually provide life support immediately after birth when 24 weeks of gestation are completed, while infants at younger gestational ages received life support only if requested by parents who have received counseling.

The researchers found that 40 percent died before or immediately after birth without life support. The survival rate for infants with 24 gestational weeks was 82 percent, and those with fewer gestational weeks had a 67 percent survival rate. Intraventricular hemorrhage III or greater, periventricular leukomalacia, severe retinopathy of prematurity and chronic lung disease were similar in infants regardless of gestational age.

"The increase of survival rate and the fact that no infant without immediate life support survived suggests that the medical policy of proactive management or compassionate care is a major factor determining the mortality of infants at the border of viability," the authors conclude.

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