Premature babies have a better chance of surviving without severe neurological problems now than they did in the 1980s, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at how the frequency of cerebral palsy changed among very low birth weight (VLBW) babies born at sixteen European centres between 1980 and 1996.
A total of 1575 of the babies were born with cerebral palsy, of who a quarter weighed less than a kilogram at birth and a fifth were part of a twin or higher-multiple pregnancy.
The authors found the proportion of babies with cerebral palsy fell by a third over the study period, from 60 out of every 1000 babies to 40.
They conclude that the increasing survival achieved as a result of improvements in neonatal care have not been at the cost of substantial morbidity.
Lancet (2007) 369: 43-50