Extreme preemies face better odds these days

A team of specialists serving the families of extremely preterm babies (22 to 25 weeks' gestation) is giving the earliest newborns across the Pacific Northwest a better shot at surviving.

"We’ve had over a year of experience in taking care of these babies, and we've done better than we expected as far as the survival," said Dr. Thomas Strandjord, a UW Medicine neonatologist and the medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at University of Washington Medical Center – Montlake. 

Before the team's formal inception in January 2021, babies born at less than 23 weeks' gestation had poor likelihood of enduring. Strandjord says the program at UWMC – Montlake has increased very preterm babies' survival rate to about 50%.

"This gives us more confidence saying we're doing the right thing to offer this as an option for babies as low as 22 weeks’ gestation," said Strandjord.

The program brings together a spectrum of healthcare specialists to streamline care for the tiny newborns -- from nurses providing constant treatment at bedsides, to respiratory therapists trained to use specific ventilators designed for their fragile lungs. Dietitians, neonatologists, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and social workers also combine forces to cater to the needs of babies and their families.

In our news release, read the story of Savannah Robles (pictured), who was born at 22 weeks.

In downloadable, broadcast-ready video and audio assets, Strandjord and the mother of an extremely premature baby descibe the medical advances involved.

UW Medicine