Babies born before 26 weeks face a huge fight for survival and many go on to live with long-term health complications such as lung problems, learning difficulties and cerebral palsy. What’s more, the rates of premature birth are on the rise in many European countries and are particularly high in the UK.
The EPICure study recorded all babies born between 22-25 weeks gestation at every maternity unit in the UK and the Republic of Ireland – all 276 of them – for 10 months in 1995. It found that survival rates in these babies were low, and while 50% of the children who did survive had no disability, 25% of the group experienced severe disability at 2.5 years.
EPICure 2 was set up in 2006 to follow a new group of extremely premature babies to see how things had moved on since then, and to revisit the children born in 1995 to assess their long-term health. Two linked studies to be published in the British Medical Journal report the latest findings on survival and long-term disability in these babies, comparing them with those born a decade earlier.
Professor Neil Marlow, Professor of Neonatology, Institute for Women’s Health, University College London.
Professor Kate Costeloe, Professor of Paediatrics, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and Consultant Neonatologist, Homerton University Hospital.