n South African Journal of Child Health - Survival of extremely low-birth-weight infants : research

Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1994-3032
  • E-ISSN: 1999-7671



Survival of extremely low-birth-weight (ELBW) infants in a resource-limited public hospital setting is still low in South Africa. This study aimed to establish the determinants of survival in this weight category of neonates, who, owing to limited intensive care facilities, were not mechanically ventilated.

A retrospective study in which patient data were retrieved from the departmental computer database.
The neonatal unit at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Neonates admitted at birth between January 2006 and December 2010 with birth weights of ≤900 g.
Survival at discharge was the major outcome. Maternal variables were age, parity, gravidity, antenatal care, antenatal steroids, place and mode of delivery and HIV status. Neonatal variables were gestational age (GA), birth weight (BW), gender, place of birth, hypothermia, resuscitation at birth, sepsis, necrotising enterocolitis, intraventricular haemorrhage, jaundice, nasal continuous positive airway pressure (NCPAP) with or without surfactant, and Apgar scores.
A total of 382 neonates were included in the study. Overall survival was 26.5%. The main causes of death, as per the Perinatal Problem Identification Programme (PPIP) classification, were extreme multi-organ immaturity and respiratory distress syndrome. The main determinants of survival were BW (odds ratio (OR) 0.994; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.991 - 0.997) and GA (OR 0.827; 95% CI 0.743 - 0.919). Overall the rate of NCPAP use was 15.5%, and NCPAP was not associated with improved survival.
Survival of ELBW infants is low. BW and GA were the strongest predictors of survival. Effective steps are required to avoid extreme prematurity, encourage antenatal care, and provide antenatal steroids when preterm birth is anticipated.

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