Objective. To determine mortality and morbidity at discharge from the hospital of a large population-based cohort of infants who were born at ≤26 weeks' gestation.

Methods. Perinatal data were collected on extremely preterm infants who were alive at the onset of labor and born between January 1, 1999, and December 31, 2000, in all 19 Belgian perinatal centers.

Results. A total of 525 infants were recorded. Life-supporting care was provided to 322 liveborn infants, 303 of whom were admitted for intensive care. The overall survival rate of liveborn infants was 54%. Of the infants who were alive at the age of 7 days, 82% survived to discharge. Vaginal delivery, shorter gestation, air leak, longer ventilator dependence, and higher initial oxygen need all were independently associated with death; gender, plurality, and surfactant therapy were not. Among the 175 survivors, 63% had 1 or more of the 3 major adverse outcome variables at the time of discharge (serious neuromorbidity, chronic lung disease at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age, or treated retinopathy of prematurity). The chance of survival free from serious neonatal morbidity at the time of hospital discharge was <15% (21 of 158) for the admitted infants with a gestation <26 weeks.

Conclusions. If for the time being prolongation of pregnancy is unsuccessful, then outcome perspectives should be discussed and treatment options including nonintervention explicitly be made available to parents of infants of <26 weeks' gestation within the limits of medical feasibility and appropriateness.

You do not currently have access to this content.