NICU Premature Babies

Study Suggests That Closing Smaller NICUs Could Save More Preemie’s Lives

According to a new study, larger hospitals are better equipped to treat sickly newborns, potentially saving thousands of lives. Extremely premature babies were found to have up to twice the survival rate when treated at busy, advanced-care centers. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, revealed that even among advanced centers, those that handled the most babies had the highest survival rates. Lead author Ciaran Phibbs emphasized the importance of hospital size in neonatal care.

nurse looking after baby in NICU

Previous studies had produced conflicting results when examining the relationship between neonatal deaths and the number of infants treated by a hospital. This study analyzed nearly 48,000 premature births and fetal deaths in California from 1991 to 2000, using birth and death certificates as well as hospital records.

The research found that California’s top neonatal intensive care units, which provide comprehensive care and surgeries, had the best survival rates. Facilities treating over 100 premature babies annually had a death rate of about 18%, compared to 20% in similar facilities treating 50 to 100 infants each year.

The trend persisted in less comprehensive neonatal units, with higher death rates observed in facilities with lower levels of care and fewer infants. The effect was consistent across different races, sizes, and genders of the studied infants.

The study estimated that consolidating neonatal intensive care units could prevent 21% of deaths among smaller infants.

The higher survival rates in larger hospitals are attributed to their advanced obstetrics care and ability to handle emergencies. Additionally, these hospitals have more experience in neonatal care.

However, Debby Rogers from the California Hospital Association warned that closing smaller neonatal units carries risks. Some rural areas have limited access to advanced medical services, and it is crucial for them to have at least limited neonatal care options.

Overall, the study highlights the potential impact of hospital size on neonatal survival rates and the need for comprehensive care in order to improve outcomes for sickly newborns.


About the author

Lisa Arneill

Founder of Growing Your Baby and World Traveled Family. Canadian mom of 2 boys, photo addict, lover of bulldogs, and museumgoer. Always looking for our next vacation spot!

1 Comment

  • This is where I can step in and argue with you 🙂

    Our boys were at the same NICU, yet got VERY different care. You were happy with the care and I was not. I could name PLENTY of nurses who should NOT be working in the NICU. Nurses who I knew more than. I can guarantee that if there were a few days that I was not there than Ashton would not be here today.

    I feel that if the stats show that more babies would survive it is worth trying.

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