Positive news for long term lung function of premature infants

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When babies are born prematurely, their lungs may not have had time to develop completely. It is important that doctors and medical staff monitor the status of these infants closely to help mitigate any complications or long term ill-effects.

Unfortunately, infants who are born before the lungs are fully mature may have impaired lung function as they get older. There has been a significant amount of study the outcomes for infants who were born before about 33 weeks, but we have had less knowledge about infants who are moderately pre-term. A recently released study indicates that in these infants the adverse effect on lung function may improve as the children get older.

The study examined a number of infants who were born six or seven weeks prematurely. When compared to infants that were born at full term, these moderately premature infants still had, on average, a lower lung capacity at ages the age of 8 and 9. But when the researchers checked the children again during their teen years, they found that these children’s lung function had improved.

In recent decades infants that have been born prematurely have a much better chance of surviving birth and the first few days of life than they did in the past. This means that there are now more children who have survived a birth complication than there has ever been before. It is encouraging that researchers are putting their energy into evaluating the unique issues that they may face. Hopefully this type of research will lead to effective treatments for any adverse effects to children that experienced an injury or complication at birth.

Source: U.S. News “Lung Function of Late Preemies May Improve With Age,” Sept. 28, 2011

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