Objective: There is evidence that birth and care in a maternity service associated with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is associated with improved survival in preterm babies born at <27 weeks of gestation. We conducted a systematic review to address whether similar gains manifested in babies born between 27+0 and 31+6 weeks (hereafter 27 and 31 weeks) of gestation, or in those with a birth weight between 1000 and 1500 g.
Methods: We searched Embase, Medline and CINAHL databases for studies comparing outcomes for babies born between 27 and 31 weeks or between 1000 and 1500 g birth weight, based on designation of the neonatal unit where the baby was born or subsequently cared for (NICU vs non-NICU setting). A modified QUIPS (QUality In Prognostic Studies) tool was used to assess quality.
Results: Nine studies compared outcomes for babies born between 27 and 31 weeks of gestation and 11 studies compared outcomes for babies born between 1000 and 1500 g birth weight. Heterogeneity in comparator groups, birth locations, gestational age ranges, timescale for mortality reporting, and description of morbidities facilitated a narrative review as opposed to a meta-analysis.
Conclusion: Due to paucity of evidence, significant heterogeneity and potential for bias, we were not able to answer our question-does place of birth or care affect outcomes for babies born between 27 and 31 weeks? This supports the need for large-scale research to investigate place of birth and care for babies born in this gestational age range.
Keywords: evidence based medicine; health service; neonatology.
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