BACKGROUND:

It is widely acceptable to involve parents in decision-making about the resuscitation of extremely preterm infants (EPIs) in the gray zone. However, there are different views about where the boundaries of the gray zone should lie. Our aim in this study was to compare the resuscitation thresholds for EPIs between neonatologists in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

METHODS:

We distributed an online survey to consultant neonatologists and neonatal registrars and fellows that included clinical scenarios in which parents requested resuscitation or nonresuscitation. Respondents were asked about the lowest gestational age and/or the worst prognosis at which they would provide resuscitation and the highest gestational age and/or the best prognosis at which they would withhold resuscitation. In additional scenarios, influence of the condition at birth or consideration of available health care resources was assessed.

RESULTS:

The survey was completed by 162 neonatologists (30% response rate). There was a significant difference between countries; the gray zone for most UK respondents was 23 + 0/7 to 23 + 6/7 or 24 weeks’ gestation, compared with 22 + 0/7 to 22 + 6/7 or 23 weeks’ gestation in Sweden and 24 + 0/7 to 25 + 6/7 or 26 weeks’ gestation in the Netherlands. Resuscitation thresholds were higher if an infant was born in poor condition. There was wide variation in the prognosis that warranted resuscitation or nonresuscitation. Consideration of resource scarcity did not alter responses.

CONCLUSIONS:

In this survey, we found significant differences in approach to the resuscitation of EPIs, with a spectrum from most proactive (Sweden) to least proactive (Netherlands). Most survey respondents indicated shifts in decision-making that were associated with particular weeks’ gestation. Despite the different approaches to decision-making in the 3 countries, there was relatively little difference between countries in neonatologists’ prognostic thresholds for resuscitation.

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