Pediatrics Study: 1 in 3 NICU Deaths Preventable

Scartelli Olszewski P.C.

Being a newborn in the United States is a lot better than it used to be, but recent reports on infant mortality demonstrate that we still have a long way to go. As with most aspects of public health, modern medicine has dramatically improved an American baby’s chances of reaching her first birthday. Our present infant mortality rate reflects more than a century of steady, almost annual improvements, with the infant mortality rate in the United States declining precipitously from 55.7 per 1,000 live births in 1935 to 6.9 in 2000. Declines since then, however, have been incremental, and today, America lags behind most of the world’s other wealthy nations in infant mortality. Our 2014 rate of 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births places the United States behind 54 other countries, including Serbia and Cuba. Most of us can agree that there is no good reason why the average baby born in Cuba should have a better chance at survival than a baby born in the United States. When very premature births – those less than 24 weeks – were excluded, the U.S. rate dropped from 6.1 to 4.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010 – but that rate still was about twice the rate for Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, the countries with the lowest rates. That makes the findings of another recent report that much more important. According to a paper published in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ official journal in December 2014, almost one-third of the infant deaths in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) are preventable. Think about that for a moment, because NICUs are a big piece of our country’s infant mortality puzzle. The idea that one out of three NICU babies could have lived shocked us, particularly when we learned of some of the seemingly simple changes that could have saved their lives.Ten percent of the babies who might have lived were born in locations that lacked the facilities to fully provide for their medical needs; some of these may have been unplanned births at home, but others were in hospitals with inadequate neonatal medical support. Another nine percent of the babies had received little or no prenatal care. About five percent contracted hospital-acquired infections.”Our study shows that many of these deaths are related to potentially preventable (or modifiable) diseases, the most common being respiratory failure, sepsis, intraventricular hemorrhage, and necrotizing enterocolitis,” study investigator Dr. Reese H. Clark from Pediatrix Medical Group in Sunrise, Florida, told Reuters Health. “Understanding the most common modifiable causes of death will allow us to better target our efforts at reducing neonatal and infant mortality.”If you or someone in your family has recently experienced the death of an infant child, please accept our deepest sympathies. When you’re ready, the Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski would like to hear your baby’s story. Not every infant child’s death can be prevented, but some of them can. Your experience might help us prevent the same thing from happening to another baby.