Getting to the First Birthday

Underweight preemies risk factors identified for dying after NICU discharge

(RxWiki News) Preemies with low birth weights have a higher risk of dying before age 1, but researchers haven't known the risk factors affecting the babies' survival after they leave the NICU.

A new study reveals that those factors include staying longer in the neonatal ICU, having an African-American background, and having a mother with an unknown health insurance status.

"Take your child to all well-baby check-ups."

Dr. Lilia De Jesus of Wayne State University led the study that looked at 5,364 babies born between 2000 and 2007 who arrived before the 27th week of pregnancy and weighed less than 2.2 pounds.

They successfully tracked 4,807 of these babies until they were 18 to 22 months old and found that 107 infants died.

African-American babies were twice as likely to die after leaving NICU compared to other racial groups, and babies who had spent more than four months in the NICU were three times more likely to pass away.

The highest risk group included those whose mother's health insurance status was unknown: if the mother did not have private health insurance, the child's risk of death was 15 times greater.

The researchers said having an unknown health insurance status likely meant the mother and child had poorer access to healthcare.

"Every effort should be made to identify and correct modifiable factors that may account for the increased risk of death after hospital discharge in these extremely premature infants," De Jesus said.

"We feel that information from our study can be used to develop interventions that may help health practitioners with the discharge and follow-up care of these high risk infants."

The study appeared online February 9 and is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Pediatrics. Information regarding funding and the authors' financial disclosures was not available.

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Review Date: 
February 8, 2012