World Prematurity Day is observed every year on 17 November. The day before, this coming Friday, MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital are holding a "Premature Baby Party" to celebrate the occasion with many former premature patients, their parents, grandparents and friends in MedUni Vienna's Lecture Center (Vienna General Hospital/Level 8). There will be lots of interactive stations for children and interesting talks about premature babies.
The good news: the survival rates for the most premature babies born on the Neonatology wards of MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital – between the 23rd and 27th week of pregnancy – are the best in the world. At the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 70% of the tiniest babies born in the 23rd week of pregnancy, that is 17 weeks before their expected delivery date, which is currently regarded as the limit for viability, survive. "Globally the survival rate is 35-40%, so that twice as many of these tiny babies survive with us, and thankfully very many of them without any lasting damage," says Angelika Berger, Head of the Division of Neonatology, Pediatric Intensive Care Medicine and Neuropediatrics.
Every year, MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital care for around 200 children born before the 32nd week of pregnancy, around half of these being born between weeks 23 and 27, so as much as 17 weeks premature. Worldwide, one in every ten children is "prem".
Long-term-outcome rates continually improving
In parallel to improved survival, the number of children who were born completely healthy or with only minimal impairment increased significantly. A recent analysis of the motor and mental development of the extremely premature babies born at MedUni Vienna or in Vienna General Hospital at the age of two shows a good outcome in almost 80% of cases. According to Berger, fewer than 10% have any serious developmental impairment. These figures are also excellent when compared internationally, she points out.
These successes validate the global reputation of MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital in premature baby care. "We really are the best in the world," underscores Angelika Berger. Every year, specialists flock to the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine from all over the world to study the "Vienna Model" of neonatology, so that they can then implement the successful management of extremely premature babies in their own centres as well. "In our facility, the interplay of high-tech medicine, nursing expertise and the comprehensive involvement of parents works excellently and is specially tailored to each premature baby and its particular needs. Moreover, the high case numbers enable us to conduct a lot of clinical studies," says Berger. For example, a recent, soon-to-be-published study demonstrated the beneficial effect of music therapy on brain development in premature babies.
World Prematurity Day
In order to give premature babies and their families a voice, the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) established World Prematurity Day in 2008 and this is celebrated every year on 17 November. As a European foundation, EFCNI brings together parents, medical specialists from many disciplines, scientists, politicians and other stakeholders with the joint aim of improving the health of this patient group.
Premature Baby Party: Friday from 15:00 hrs
At the end of the party, at around 18:30 hrs, a balloon will be released into the sky over Vienna for each of the 200 premature babies born every year; the balloons will be white and purple to reflect the colours of the World Day. Beforehand, at around 17:45 hrs, the Department of Emergency Medicine/Pulse charity will stage a teddy bear resuscitation demonstration (children are invited to bring their own teddy bears along!). From 15:00 hrs onwards, infotainment will be provided by the CliniClowns, an activity course, a play and handicraft corner and video talks about premature babies.
Premature Baby Party on 16 November (15 – 18:30 hrs), Lecture Center of MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital, Level 8, Währinger Gürtel 18-20, 1090 Vienna.
Come along, join the party and find out more!