Survival of the extremely preterm infant in North America in the 1990s

Clin Perinatol. 2000 Jun;27(2):255-62. doi: 10.1016/s0095-5108(05)70020-8.


Survival of extremely premature infants has been significantly higher in the last decade than previously, and may well have improved during this time. The majority of infants greater than or equal to 25 weeks' gestation survive today. Survival of infants 23 and 24 weeks' gestation is significantly lower, but is by no means negligible. Reports of survival of infants less than 23 weeks or less than 500-g birth weight are not unique. Moreover, the maximum survival of infants less than or equal to 25 weeks possible with current state-of-the-art care is not known. Currently available data do not allow survival of the individual extremely low-birth weight or extremely premature infant to be predicted with clinically acceptable accuracy. The concept of a limit of viability is vague and clinically and ethically simplistic. The provision of neonatal intensive care is not necessarily beneficial or justified merely because it affords some minimal chance of survival. This phrase should not be used to summarize the complex issues involved in balancing maternal and neonatal risks and benefits of intrapartum and neonatal care of the extremely low-birth weight or the extremely premature fetus and infant, the suffering of the infant and family, parental values and autonomy, and consumption of limited communal resources. It should be deleted from our vocabulary.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Medical
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis