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Steroid Use May Boost Survival Rates For Premature Infants

A new report from the National Institute of Health and discussed last week in PharmPro provides encouraging news for all those hoping to prevent premature child birth injuries. Of course, children who are delivered before the full term gestation period can have myriad problems that they otherwise wouldn’t. Considering that many children are born prematurely every year, medical researchers have been working to limit injuries and improve survival rates among this group for decades. Over the years staggering progress has been made. The good news continues to come in.

For example, according to the PharmPro story, prenatal steroids seem to improve the survival rates and chance of suffering an infant brain injury among those born as early as the twenty third week of pregnancy. A full pregnancy is usually considered to be forty weeks long. As medical knowledge has increased, the viability of those children born weeks (or months) before that normal time has increased. That viability period may continue to grow.

Per the new research from the National Institute of Health Network, prenatal steroids may be given to mothers at risk for premature birth earlier than they are currently given. Under current guidelines these drugs are given to those at risk of premature birth between the 24th and 34th week of their pregnancies. Yet, the latest study suggests benefit can be seen as early as the 23rd week of pregnancy. The study which reached this conclusion appeared in this month’s Journal of the American Medical Association and was led by the director of the Neonatology division at the University of Alabama.

The steroids benefit the infant by helping the fetus’s lungs more fully mature. Naturally those children born early have not had the time to properly develop. The failure to develop vital organs often leads to significant long-term birth injuries-that is if the child survives at all. Lung trouble is particularly common among premature infants as is brain underdevelopment. However, increased steroid use among mothers who may deliver premature infants may ultimately save more of these children, particularly those who are the most fragile (born between the 22nd and 25th week of pregnancy).

Before this study, there was little guidance on prenatal steroid benefits in infants born before the 24th week. The study was completed to fill the knowledge void. It involved examination of nearly 11,000 infants born preterm over the last 17 years. In additional neurological examinations were conducted of nearly 5,000 of those infants. The results found a robust impact from prenatal steroids. Specifically, there were 33% fewer deaths among those who received the hormones compared with those who did not. Additionally, blindness, deafness, and other injuries or disabilities were 20% lower in those surviving infants who received the steroids.

Experts report that premature infants born in this 22-25 week zone often die shortly after birth, despite all efforts possible being exerted to save them. Many others experience disabilities that last throughout their lives, anything from hearing loss and cerebral palsy to mental deficiencies. A few are able to survive into adulthood unaffected, and it is hoped that research like this will help more of these children reach maturity without complications. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers are encouraged by the results and hope that their findings are verified and implemented into practice is as efficient and safe manner as possible.

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