Background: Parent counselling and decision-making regarding the management of preterm labour and birth are influenced by information provided by healthcare professionals regarding potential infant outcomes.
Aim: The aim of this study was to determine whether perinatal healthcare providers had accurate perceptions of survival and major neurosensory disability rates of very preterm infants born in non-tertiary hospitals ('outborn') and tertiary perinatal centres ('inborn').
Materials and methods: A web-based survey was distributed to midwives, nurses, obstetricians and neonatologists working in non-tertiary and tertiary maternity hospitals, and the perinatal/neonatal emergency transport services in Victoria, Australia.
Main outcome measures: Estimates of survival rates at 24 and 28-weeks' gestation were compared with actual survival rates of a population-based cohort of 24 and 28-weeks' gestation infants, born free of lethal anomalies in Victoria in 2001-2009. Estimates of major neurosensory disability rates in 24 and 28-week survivors were compared with actual disability rates in 24 and 28-week children born in Victoria averaged over three eras: 1991-1992, 1997 and 2005.
Results: Response rates varied as follows: 83% of non-tertiary midwives, 4% of obstetricians, 55% of tertiary centre staff and 68% of transport team staff responded (total of 30%). Overall, respondents underestimated survival and overestimated major neurosensory disability rates in both outborn and inborn 24 and 28-week infants. Outborn infants were perceived to have much worse prospects for survival and for survival with major disability compared with inborn peers.
Conclusion: Many clinicians overestimated rates of adverse outcomes. These clinicians may be misinforming parents about their child's potential for a favourable outcome.
Keywords: counselling; extremely preterm infant; mortality; neurodevelopmental disability; outcomes.
© 2016 The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.