Study reveals selection bias in treating premature babies

Birth weight and gender are a factor in some neonatal care unit admissions

Extremely premature babies born at 23 weeks gestation are managed differently to those born at 24 and 25 weeks gestation, according to research that reveals a selection bias and several disparities in treatment.

The South Australian team analysed the clinical characteristics of all Australian births and neonatal care unit admissions (NICU) from 2010 to 2013 at 23, 24 and 25 weeks gestation.

They found that decisions regarding perinatal care play a greater role in the survival of infants born at 23 weeks gestation than at 24 or 25 weeks.

The researchers from Flinders Medical Centre note that NICU admission occurred in 15 per cent of all births at 23 weeks.

In contrast, 49 per cent of infants were admitted to the NICU at 24 weeks, and 64 per cent at 25 weeks.

At 23 weeks, only 13 per cent of live-born infants weighing less than 500 grams were admitted to a NICU