To determine the mortality and morbidity for infants weighing 401 to 1500 g (very low birth weight [VLBW]) at birth by gestational age, birth weight, and gender.
Perinatal data were collected prospectively on an inborn cohort from January 1995 through December 1996 by 14 participating centers of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network and were compared with the corresponding data from previous reports. Sociodemographic factors, perinatal events, and the neonatal course to 120 days of life, discharge, or death were evaluated.
Eighty four percent of 4438 infants weighing 501 to 1500 g at birth survived until discharge to home or to a long-term care facility (compared with 80% in 1991 and 74% in 1988). Survival to discharge was 54% for infants 501 to 750 g at birth, 86% for those 751 to 1000 g, 94% for those 1001 to 1250 g, and 97% for those 1251 to 1500g. The incidence of chronic lung disease (CLD; defined as receiving supplemental oxygen at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age; 23%), proven necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC; 7%), and severe intracranial hemorrhage (ICH; grade III or IV; 11%) remained unchanged between 1991 and 1996. Furthermore, 97% of all VLBW infants and 99% of infants weighing <1000 g at birth had weights less than the 10th percentile at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age.
Mortality for 195 infants weighing 401 to 500 g was 89%, with nearly all survivors developing CLD. Mortality in infants weighing 501 to 600 g was 71%; among survivors, 62% had CLD, 35% had severe ICH, and 15% had proven NEC.
Survival for infants between 501 and 1500 g at birth continued to improve, particularly for infants weighing <1000 g at birth. This improvement in survival was not associated with an increase in major morbidities, because the incidence of CLD, proven NEC, and severe ICH did not change. However, poor postnatal growth remains a major concern, occurring in 99% of infants weighing <1000 g at birth. Mortality and major morbidity (CLD, severe ICH, and NEC) remain high for the smallest infants, particularly those weighing <600 g at birth.