Intended for healthcare professionals


Survival after extremely preterm birth

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 29 May 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1199
  1. Neena Modi, professor of neonatal medicine
  1. 1Imperial College London SW10 9NH
  1. n.modi{at}

    Viability is not determined solely by gestational age

    Last week, proposals in the UK to lower the 24 week deadline for abortion were rejected in the House of Commons. Decisions involving late abortion and the care of extremely preterm infants often result from strongly held beliefs rather than evidence. To a large extent this is understandable as these decisions are personal. However, when moral judgments are imposed on those holding different views and when the rights of the infant, be it to life or death, are in danger of colliding with those of parents and society the need for evidence is paramount.

    In the accompanying study, Field and colleagues compare survival figures for two adjacent time periods, 1994-9 and 2000-5, for infants born at a gestational age of 22 weeks to 25 weeks and six days in a geographically defined region of the United Kingdom, the former Trent health region.1 During this 12 year period, there was no change in the number of extremely preterm infants who were alive when born but died before admission to a neonatal unit. Survival to discharge significantly improved for infants born at 24 and …

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