Is there evidence that long-term outcomes have improved with intensive care?

Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2007 Oct;12(5):344-54. doi: 10.1016/j.siny.2007.06.010. Epub 2007 Aug 16.


Advances in perinatal interventions over the past three decades, such as antenatal steroid therapy, ventilator techniques, surfactant therapy, and enhanced nutrition have resulted in a dramatic improvement in the survival of very low birth weight (VLBW) infants. Simultaneously, other advances in reproductive technology procedures have resulted in greater numbers of preterm and multiple births. These extremely premature births account for the vast majority of infant mortality and morbidity in the developed world. Despite the innovative interventions, VLBW infants remain at substantial risk for a wide spectrum of long-term morbidity including cerebral palsy (CP), mental retardation, developmental delay, school problems, behavioral issues, growth failure, and overall poor health status. Recently, ethical concerns have been expressed that improved survival rates for the most immature infants may result in increased rates of disability with substantial resource utilization and declining quality of life for the survivors. This chapter critically evaluates the available neurodevelopmental and health outcomes of very premature infants from the developed world in an attempt to determine if there is evidence that long-term outcomes have improved with neonatal intensive care. Studies on the rates of neurodevelopmental impairment including CP, early childhood and school age functional problems, and special health care issues are surveyed in order to evaluate changes over time and provide an assessment of the success of neonatal intensive care over the past three decades.

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Palsy / complications*
  • Cerebral Palsy / therapy
  • Developmental Disabilities / complications*
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality / trends
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight / growth & development
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight / psychology*
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Morbidity
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*