Preemies may face higher death rates as adults

Wed Sep 21, 2011 8:49am EDT
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(Reuters) - Health problems are common among premature babies, who are more likely to die than their full-term peers during the first few years of life -- and they may also face slightly increased death rates as young adults, a study said.

"This is an entirely new finding," said Casey Crump of Stanford University, whose findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Even people born just a couple of weeks early had an increased risk of mortality."

Previously, preemies were believed to go on to have normal death rates once they have survived their early years.

Crump, though, said the results, based on Swedish data, should not cause undue alarm.

"The absolute mortality was still less than one per 1,000 people per year, so it's very low," he added.

His team studied a group of nearly 675,000 Swedes born between 1973 and 1979.

They found that children born before 37 weeks of pregnancy were much more likely to die before age five than others. That link disappeared in late childhood and adolescence, but then re-emerged in early adulthood -- from 18 to 36 years.

The health problems linked to earlier death included heart disease, diabetes and asthma.   Continued...

<p>A nurse takes care of a 2-month-old premature infant lying in an incubator at a hospital in Enshi, Hubei province, China May 4, 2010. REUTERS/China Daily</p>