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Unstudied infants: outcomes of moderately premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit

BACKGROUND: Newborns of 30-34 weeks gestation comprise 3.9% of all live births in the United States and 32% of all premature infants. They have been studied much less than very low birthweight infants. OBJECTIVE: To measure in-hospital outcomes and readmission within three months of discharge of moderately premature infants. DESIGN: Prospective cohort study including retrospective chart review and telephone interviews after discharge. SETTING: Ten birth hospitals in California and Massachusetts. PATIENTS: Surviving moderately premature infants born between October 2001 and February 2003. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: (a) Occurrence of assisted ventilation during the hospital stay after birth; (b) adverse in-hospital outcomes-for example, necrotising enterocolitis; (c) readmission within three months of discharge. RESULTS: With the use of prospective cluster sampling, 850 eligible infants and their families were identified, randomly selected, and enrolled. A total of 677 families completed a telephone interview three months after hospital discharge. During the birth stay, these babies experienced substantial morbidity: 45.7% experienced assisted ventilation, and 3.2% still required supplemental oxygen at 36 weeks. Readmission within three months occurred in 11.2% of the cohort and was higher among male infants and those with chronic lung disease. CONCLUSIONS: Moderately premature infants experience significant morbidity, as evidenced by high rates of assisted ventilation, use of oxygen at 36 weeks, and readmission. Such morbidity deserves more research.

Authors: Escobar GJ; McCormick MC; Zupancic JA; Coleman-Phox K; Armstrong MA; Greene JD; Eichenwald EC; Richardson DK

Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2006 Jul;91(4):F238-44. Epub 2006 Apr 12.

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