Admission of all gestations to a regional neonatal unit versus controls: Neonatal morbidity


Professor Brian Darlow, Department of Paediatrics, Christchurch School of Medicine, University of Otago Christchurch, PO Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand. Fax: +64 3 3640747; email:


Aims:  To describe the neonatal course and morbidity of all infants admitted to the regional neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Christchurch Women's Hospital (CWH) and to compare these with term control infants who were not admitted, in one calendar year. Infants in both NICU and control cohorts were enrolled in a 2-year follow-up study.

Methods:  All infants born over a 12-month period from February 2001 and admitted to the NICU, whose parents were domiciled in a defined geographical region, were eligible for study, together with every eighth healthy infant born at term and not admitted (to a total of 300). Comprehensive perinatal and neonatal data were collected for all enrolled infants.

Results:  A total of 387 NICU infants (86% eligible) were enrolled in the study together with 306 controls. Forty-one percent of NICU admissions were term and 40% were 33–36 weeks gestation. Term NICU infants were more likely to be born following induction of labour or by Caesarean section (34%, of which 50% were pre-labour) than control infants (18%, of which 32% were pre-labour). Infants of <28, 28–32, 33–36 and ≥37 weeks accounted for 74, 16, 7 and 3% of assisted ventilation days and 18, 31, 31 and 20% of total baby days, respectively.

Conclusions:  The need for assisted ventilation and length of NICU stay was inversely proportional to gestation. However, preterm infants of 28 weeks gestation and greater, as well as term infants, account for a high proportion of the NICU workload.