Managing "healthy" late preterm infants

Akio Ishiguro, Yoshiyuki Namai, Yoichi M Ito
Pediatrics International: Official Journal of the Japan Pediatric Society 2009, 51 (5): 720-5

BACKGROUND: Late preterm infants are often managed in nursery rooms despite the risks associated with prematurity. The objective of this study was to determine the risks facing late preterm infants admitted to nursery rooms and to establish a management strategy.

METHODS: A total of 210 late preterm infants and 2648 mature infants were assessed. Infants born at 35 and 36 weeks' gestation weighing >or=2000 grams admitted to a nursery room and not requiring medical intervention at birth were of particular interest. The admission rates to the neonatal intensive care unit were evaluated according to the chart review.

RESULTS: Infants born at 35 and 36 weeks' gestation weighing >or=2000 grams had significantly higher admission rates than term infants at birth (Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test, P < 0.001; common risk ratio, 4.27; 95% confidence interval, 2.41-7.55) and after birth (P < 0.001; common risk ratio, 3.57; 95% confidence interval, 2.40-5.33). More than 80% of admissions from the nursery room to the neonatal intensive care unit after birth were due to apnea or hypoglycemia in neonates born at 35 and 36 weeks' gestation. The admission rates due to apnea increased with decreasing gestational age. The admission rates due to hypoglycemia with no cause other than prematurity accounted for 24.3% of admissions for those born at 35 weeks' gestation and 14.1% of admissions for those born at 36 weeks' gestation; hypoglycemia due to other causes accounted for fewer admissions.

CONCLUSION: The management strategy for late preterm infants should be individualized, based on apnea and hypoglycemia. The respiratory state of late preterm infants should be monitored for at least 2 days, and they should be screened for hypoglycemia on postnatal day 0.

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