Objective: To determine to what extent the recommendations to actively treat preterm infants with a gestational age of 24 weeks upwards laid down in the guidelines 'Perinatal policy in cases of extreme prematurity' have influenced policy in Dutch perinatal centres in the first year after publication, and what the health outcomes were.
Design: Retrospective, descriptive study.
Method: Our study population included all pregnant women who were admitted to a perinatal centre at 23 5/7 to 26 weeks gestation with a diagnosis of 'threatened preterm labour', and their preterm infants. We collected both obstetric data and data on survival and morbidity of the infants from the medical files.
Results: Of a total of 192 preterm infants 185 (96%) were born alive; 92% of these infants were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. Survival rates were 43% and 61% at 24 weeks and 25 weeks gestation, respectively. Short-term morbidity (bronchopulmonary dysplasia, retinopathy of the newborn, severe intraventricular haemorrhage, necrotising enterocolitis and persistent ductus arteriosus) occurred in 79% and 71% of the infants born at 24 weeks and 25 weeks gestation, respectively.
Conclusions: The recommendations from these guidelines have been implemented swiftly in Dutch perinatal centres, and survival of extremely preterm infants has increased. This has imposed a considerable burden on the capacity of these centres. Little is yet known about the long-term (up to school-age) health and survival of these infants.