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Higher oxygen levels help more premature babies to survive

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Posted February 12, 2016

Helping preterm infants to survive is a difficult task for doctors. There are countless researches, which created many recommendations how to help these children grow up healthy and happy. However, a lot of premature babies do not survive and now scientists from the University of Sydney think that it might have to do with too low levels of oxygen.

Premature babies have to be provided with a perfect oxygen level to prevent potential disabilities and death. Now scientists found that the higher the level of oxygen within the accepted range, the higher the chances of survival for the baby. Image credit: Jeremy Kemp via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Premature babies have to be provided with a perfect oxygen level to prevent potential disabilities and death. Now scientists found that the higher the level of oxygen within the accepted range, the higher the chances of survival for the baby. Image credit: Jeremy Kemp via Wikimedia, Public Domain

New research argues that oxygen levels should be kept way higher than it is currently recommended – in the top half of the accepted range. The study involved 2,108 cases in UK and Australia, but similar findings were done in a controlled trial in North America too.

The recommended range of haemoglobin saturations for premature babies currently is 85-95%. It was set like this, because below that there are high chances of neurologic damage, higher – the risk of retinopathy in extremely pre-term infants. However, this 10% range is quite a big one, having in mind that babies have to get a specific amount of oxygen, because too low or too high may mean a disability in the future. Now scientists are attempting to narrow this gap as much as possible and hope that it will prevent thousands of deaths worldwide each year.

Professor William Tarnow-Mordi, co-principal investigator of the study, said: “Now more trials are urgently needed to improve the quality of survival of premature babies. With innovative investment in clinical trial networks and point-of-care data capture, trials like these could be completed much faster, at a fraction of the cost”.

The trials showed that keeping oxygen in the top of the acceptable levels significantly reduces death cases of premature babies. In the lower-oxygen target group death rate was around 24.5%, while in higher-oxygen group it was around 16.9%. Although different stages of analysis showed different results, higher levels of oxygen within the accepted range always meant that death rates were lower.

This should help to narrow this 10% gap of acceptable haemoglobin saturations. It will help doctors to make better decisions and to save more lives in the process. Scientists say that the outlook for very preterm babies has never been better and is continuing to improve with each study and scientific advancement.

Source: sydney.edu.au

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