Improvement in mortality of very low birthweight infants and the changing pattern of neonatal mortality: the 50-year experience of one perinatal centre

J Paediatr Child Health. 2012 Jul;48(7):596-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2012.02425.x. Epub 2012 Mar 12.


Aim: Neonatology is a relatively new sub-specialty so we aimed to review survival data in the context of advances in neonatal care.

Method: Review of neonatal survival for very low birthweight babies over the last 50 years.

Results: In the data collected from a single tertiary neonatal unit, survival for babies 501-1000 g improved from below 10% in 1959 to over 60% in 2009. Similarly, survival for babies 1001 to 1500 g has improved from approximately 50% to over 90%. During the study period, death due to extreme prematurity or cardiorespiratory problems, namely respiratory distress syndrome, fell from 90% in 1964 to only 45% of neonatal deaths in 2008.

Conclusion: In addition to reporting the remarkable improvement in neonatal survival over this period, we have highlighted items of historical context.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality / trends*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / mortality*
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Neonatology / history
  • Neonatology / trends*
  • Perinatal Care
  • Survival Analysis