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Deaths in Neonatal Intensive Care Drop Over Two Decades

Proportion of deaths due to chromosomal defects and neural tube problems decline

MONDAY, July 24 (HealthDay News) -- Fewer infants died in a neonatal intensive care unit in recent years than in the 1980s, and the causes of death changed as well, with fewer infants dying of chromosomal abnormalities and neural tube defects, according to an Australian study published in the July issue of the Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

Dominic J. Wilkinson, of the Royal Children's Hospital in Victoria, Australia, and colleagues compared the causes of death in the neonatal intensive care unit in 1,362 infants admitted between 1985 and 1987 and 1,776 infants admitted between 1999 to 2001.

The researchers found that 9.7 percent of infants died during the 1985-1987 period, compared to 6.2 percent during the latter period. During both periods, about 75 percent of all infants who died did so after removal of life support. But during the 1999-2001 period, significantly fewer infants died of chromosomal abnormalities and neural tube defects compared to the earlier period, the report indicates.

"There have been substantial changes in the illnesses leading to death in the neonatal intensive care unit," the authors write. "These may reflect the combined effects of prenatal diagnosis and changing community and medical attitudes."

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