CHICAGO -- Children who have survived extreme prematurity due to the advent of advanced medical treatments, primarily the development of lung surfactant, are twice as likely to repeat a grade and need special education compared with children born at full term, a new study at the University at Buffalo has shown.
However, the special needs of these children are no greater than those of babies born prematurely before the use of surfactant and other advanced treatments that now enable neonatologists to save babies born as much as 16 weeks early.
"When neonatologists became able to save these very tiny babies, the prevailing wisdom was that we were shifting these children from the risk of death to the risk of sickness and a low quality of life," said Germaine Buck, Ph.D., UB associate professor of social and preventive medicine, and a lead author on the study.
"What we found through this research was that rescuing these babies has not exaggerated the burden from pre-surfactant days. Many children do have trouble in school, but the level of special education needs has remained fairly stable from the pre-surfactant to post-surfactant era. If these children escape disabling brain injury at birth, they are not necessarily at risk for extensive special needs."
Buck presented results of the study here today (June 23, 1998) at the annual meeting of the Society for Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiologic Research.
The case-control study involved 108 singleton babies born at, or less than, 28 weeks gestation at Children's Hospital of Buffalo, a regional neonatal intensive-care center, between 1983 and 1986. The 219 full-term infants used as controls were selected randomly from live births at the hospital during the same period.
Children's Hospital has one of the oldest groups of survivors of extreme prematurity. A neonatologist at Children's developed lung surfactant and physicians in Buffalo have used it since the early 1980
Contact: Lois Baker
University at Buffalo