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  • Oxygen study decreasing mortality in premature infants

    Author: AAP

New oxygen-related research may help to prevent the deaths of thousands of premature babies worldwide each year, according to an Australian researcher.

More premature babies could survive if their levels of oxygen are kept in the top half of the previously accepted range, says new research.

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The risk of death by age two among infants born before 28 weeks gestation was found to be up to 45 per cent higher when they receive targeted oxygen saturation in the range of 85-89 per cent compared to 91-95 per cent.

Neonatologists have previously set a target of between 85 and 95 per cent.

Conducted in Australia and the UK by the BOOST-II Collaborative Groups, the trials involved 2108 cases and confirm similar North America findings.

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University of Sydney's Professor William Tarnow-Mordi is co-principal investigator of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday.

A pulse oximeter measures how much oxygen is entering the infant's bloodstream, he told AAP.

"When we started this trial the accepted range was between 85 and 95 per cent - some of these children have very immature lungs and they need extra oxygen concentration to be given to them.

"What people didn't know was how much oxygen you should give and what target you should be trying to reach in terms of the oxygen saturation."

Researchers already knew that saturations lower than 85 per cent increase the likelihood of neurologic damage, while those higher than 95 per cent increase the risk of eye damage or blindness.

The latest study showed that targeting an oxygen saturation below 90 per cent with the use of current oximeters in extremely preterm infants was associated with an increased risk of death.

"This evidence will help prevent thousands of deaths worldwide each year," Prof Tarnow-Mordi said.

Three other trials, similar to the Australian and UK ones, are taking place in Canada, the United States and New Zealand, with the combined results expected to be released later this year.

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