While there may still be a long way to go, evidence suggest that survival rates among preterm infants are slowly but surely improving. Advances in technology and treatment techniques have resulted in significantly more preterm babies surviving today than would have been the case a decade ago.
According to the results of a new study carried out by Duke investigators, there was a survival rate or around 30% among babies delivered after 22 to 24 weeks during the period between 2000 and 2003. However, when the researchers examined survival rates from 2008 to 2011, they found that this had increased to a 36% survival rate.
This is still drastically lower than experts would like to see, though nonetheless represents gradual movement in the right direction.
“The most important thing is that there’s some improvement over time in the outcomes of these 22 to 24-week gestational age babies,” said Charles Michael Cotten, professor of pediatrics and the study’s senior author.
Though medical science continue to accelerate at an incredible pace, premature babies nonetheless face an extremely difficult fight. Even with the most advanced technology ever developed, doctors simply cannot faithfully recreate the natural gestation process. With weak bones, underdeveloped organs and the inability to absorb key nutrients, the odds are stacked firmly against preterm babies.
“We aren’t as good as a mom and a placenta,” Cotten said.
“We’re trying to, but we have a long way to go.”
Nevertheless, the reported progress has been welcomed by health groups and experts at all levels, uniting in their calls for more intensive ongoing research. This recent improvement in survival rates has been partly attributed to better infection control, the use of mother’s milk and the administering of prescription steroids in pregnant women facing an elevated risk of premature delivery.