Special Medical Care For Infants Born At Cusp Of Viability Has Increased Greatly, But Minorities Less Likely To Get It, Study Finds


Medical intervention for infants born in the U.S. at the cusp of viability jumped from 2014 to 2020, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA — although infants born to mothers of historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups were significantly less likely to receive that treatment.

The share of infants born before the third trimester who receive active treatment has shot up, … [+] according to a new study, but Black and Hispanic infants are still less likely to receive such care. (Photo by Jeffrey Basinger/Newsday RM via Getty Images)

Newsday via Getty Images

Key Facts

The share of infants born between 22 weeks and 25 weeks, six days — considered the cusp of viability — who received active treatment, including ventilation and antibiotics, increased from 45.7% in 2014 to 58.8% in 2020, according to the study, which used data from the National Center for Health Statistics from 61,908 births between 2014 and 2020.

The study found the biggest jump among infants born to Black and Hispanic or Latino parents, with an average annual increase of 4.7% in the number of infants born between 22 and 26 weeks who received active treatment for both groups (more than the 3.9% overall annual change).

However, throughout the seven years reviewed in the study, the early-born Black, Hispanic and Asian infants in the study were less likely than white infants to receive treatment (62.8% of pre-term infants born to white parents in 2020, compared to 58.9% of children of Black parents, 54.8% of children of Hispanic/Latino parents and 52.1% of children of parents who identify as Asian/Pacific Islander).

The share of infants born at 22 weeks who received active treatment doubled in that time, from 14% in 2014 to 28.7% in 2020 – the biggest change reported in the study – while treatment at 23 weeks increased from 44.2% to 60.1%, treatment at 24 weeks increased from 54.5% to 65%, and treatment at 25 weeks increased from 53.1% to 65.1%.

Assisted ventilation at birth was the most common treatment (96% of those who received treatments), followed by ventilation for more than six hours (60%), antibiotics (47%) and surfactant therapy (45%), according to the study.

Key Background

A study by Stanford researchers released in February found the survival rate of infants born between 22 and 28 weeks increased from 76% between 2008 and 2012 to 78% between 2013 and 2018. Researchers in the JAMA study, however, are still unclear whether treatment in those births will result in a lower mortality rate. More than 30,000 of nearly 27 million live births in the U.S. from 2014 to 2020 that happened between 22 weeks and 25 weeks and six days, where the mother delivered one child, were still-births, according to the study – and the share of pre-term births of children Black, Hispanic and Asian and Pacific Islander parents, is disproportionately higher.

Further Reading

Abortion Rates In The U.S. Rose In 2020 After 30 Years Of Decline, Report Says (Forbes)

How Americans Really Feel About Abortion: The Sometimes Surprising Poll Results As Supreme Court Overturns Roe V. Wade (Forbes)

Life Sciences, Forbes – Healthcare

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