Prematurely Deciding Preterm Infants' Health

A review of medical records shows current treatment of late-preterm babies can be harmful

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Frequently, late-preterm infants (born between 34 and 37 weeks of gestation) receive the same treatment as full-term infants. However, new research shows that treating late-preterm babies as though they are developmentally mature can be damaging to their health.

According to a review of medical records at Loyola University Hospital, late-preterm infants born at 36 weeks are nearly twice as likely to be admitted to the emergency room within their first month than are infants born at 34 or 35 weeks. Infants delivered at 34 or 35 weeks are typically receive preterm birth treatment. Additionally, the review discovered that the risk of returning to the hospital was doubled for those late-preterm infants who were sent home less than 48 hours after delivery.

The incidence of late-preterm births, which make up more than 70 percent of all premature births, has drastically increased in the U.S. over the course of the last 15 years. Worldwide, more than 1 million preterm infants die each year. Infants born prematurely are at great risk of developing a variety of medical complications including respiratory problems, hypothermia, low blood sugar, jaundice, and eating problems.

According to Ramzan Shahid, M.D., medical director of the newborn nursery at Loyola University Medical Center, the findings of this review illustrate the need to change practice. Shahid stresses that late-preterm infants should not be released prior to 48 hours, and that they should be monitored within a neonatal intensive care unit or newborn nursery.

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Review Date: 
January 3, 2011
Last Updated:
January 4, 2011