• Vol. 44 No. 7
  • 15 July 2015

Neonatal Outcome of the Late Preterm Infant (34 to 36 Weeks): The Singapore Story



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Introduction: Late preterm (LP) neonates (34 to 36 weeks gestation) are often managed like term neonates though current literature has identified them to have greater complications. The primary objective of our study was to evaluate and compare morbidity and resource utilisation in LPs especially in view of paucity of Asian studies in this regard.

Materials and Methods: A retrospective audit was carried out on 12,459 neonates born in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKWCH). The chief outcome measures were hypoglycaemia, hypothermia, respiratory morbidity, feeding problems and neonatal jaundice. Resource utilisation included neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission, mechanical ventilation, parenteral nutrition and length of hospitalisation.

Results: Of 12,459 deliveries, 1221 (10%) were LP deliveries with a significantly increasing trend of 8.6% to 10% from 2002 to 2008 (P = 0.001). Neonatal morbidity in the form of hypoglycaemia (34 weeks vs 35 to 36 weeks vs term: 26% vs 16% vs 1%); hypothermia (5% vs 1.7% vs 0.2%); feeding difficulties (30% vs 9% vs 1.4%); respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) (4% vs 1% vs 0.1%); transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTNB) (23% vs 8% vs 3%) and neonatal jaundice (NNJ) needing phototherapy (63% vs 24% vs 8%), were significantly different between the 3 groups, with highest incidence in 34-week-old infants. Resource utilisation including intermittent positive pressure ventilation (IPPV) (15% vs 3.5% vs 1%), total parenteral nutrition/intravenous (TPN/IV) (53% vs 17% vs 3%) and length of stay (14 ± 22 days vs 4 ± 4.7 days vs 2.6 ± 3.9 days) was also significantly higher (P <0.001) in LPs.

Conclusion: LP neonates had significantly higher morbidity and resource utilisation compared to term infants. Among the LP group, 34-week-old infants had greater complications compared to infants born at 35 to 36 weeks.

Neonatologists were caught looking the other way in the early part of the millennium. While they were keenly following the progress of extreme preterms and their travails, preterms born at the other end of the spectrum were being quietly ignored as “well babies”. In July 2005, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) held a workshop to optimise the care and outcome of the near term pregnancy and near term newborn infant. During this session, varying terms like “near term” and “borderline term” were brought together under the umbrella phrase “late preterm (LP) babies”. They were defined as infants born between weeks 34+0 to 36 and 6/7 completed weeks. This term was used to signify that this age group of preterm infants was “at risk” compared to a term population.

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