"I'm trying to get as much information as I can before the baby is born to give the parents a realistic expectation of survival," he said. "Not all babies are the same, especially with regard to survival at this early gestational age. There are differences based on race and gender, so we can't group all these babies together and say survival at less than 1,000 grams is X-percent."
UF researchers studied vital statistics from 5,076 babies born in Florida between 1996 and 2000 and weighing less than 1,000 grams. The influence of gender and race on babies' survival rates was more noticeable the smaller the infants were, the research shows. The higher the weights and developmental ages were at birth, the more survival rates increased for all babies.
About 1,500 babies included in the study were extremely premature, born when their mothers were less than 24 weeks pregnant. On average, these babies had a less than 27 percent chance of survival. Because their organs have not had as much time to develop, these tiny babies are at the highest risk for disabling health problems, and doctors and families often struggle to decide what life-saving measures should be taken, if any, Morse said.
"This is the highest-risk population of babies and there is a lot of controversy, especially at the lower gestational ages, of how much should we really do for these babies, how aggressively should we treat them, especially around 23 to 24 weeks," he said.
The researchers do not know what measures were taken to save the lives of each of the babies included in the study, which Morse describes as the only limitation of the research. Many families decide just to hold their babies as they pass a
Contact: April Frawley Birdwell
University of Florida