Improved care for newborn babies

Evaluation of the care for sick babies has improved. This improvement in evaluation is the result of cooperation between the 29 neonatal intensive care units participating in the Australian and New Zealand Neonatal Network. In 1995 there were over 5,500 babies who needed the highest level of intensive care.

Australian and New Zealand Neonatal Network 1995, the second report in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's National Perinatal Statistics Unit's Neonatal Network Series, details an audit of the sickest babies in neonatal intensive care. It was produced in collaboration with the Directors of the neonatal intensive care units.

One of the Neonatal Network's coordinators, Professor David Henderson-Smart, said that "now, for the first time, every neonatal intensive care unit in Australia and New Zealand is cooperating to provide ongoing evaluation and discussion of the care of our most fragile babies".

"In the era of evidence-based medicine, cooperative projects such as this are leading the way to provide a solid basis for evaluating the care of high risk infants" he said.

Just under 2 per cent of the more than 300,000 babies born in Australia and New Zealand in 1995 required the highest level of neonatal intensive care, and 90 per cent of this high-risk group survived to go home.

Australian and New Zealand Neonatal Network 1995 found that:

  • babies are helped if mothers take corticosteroids - drugs to help the baby's lungs mature - before the birth, and nearly 80 per cent of the high-risk babies had this treatment; and
  • a new treatment that halves the death rate in premature infants with severe breathing problems was given to 80 per cent of babies with this condition.

The report also details other aspects of the mother's pregnancy, the birth, and the outcome for the baby. The information gathered will help with the creation and implementation of national guidelines of care.


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