Published: 16-11-2012 00:00 | Updated: 16-06-2014 16:05

World Prematurity Day 17 November: European initiative to optimize the care of very preterm infants

The survival rate of premature infants has increased dramatically over the past 40 years. Scientists are currently endeavouring to develop the neonatal care in order to minimize the health risks for these children. The Karolinska Institute is participating in a EU research project studying 10,000 premature infants in Europe.

Around 20,000 children and young people in Sweden today were born very prematurely (less than 32 weeks gestation). They have a higher risk of infant mortality, long term neurological and developmental impairments, and poorer health than full term infants. The EPICE project - Effective Perinatal Intensive Care in Europe - a European project funded by the EU 7th Framework Program "Health" aims to improve the survival and long-term health of these children by ensuring that medical knowledge is translated into effective care. The aim of the project is to provide scientific knowledge on strategies to improve the use of evidence based medicine around birth.

"We are constantly working on making improvements and fulfilling our vision of lifelong health for children born prematurely and consequently, this research study is very important", says Mikael Norman, Medical Director of the Department of Neonatology, Karolinska University Hospital, Professor of Paediatrics, Karolinska Institute and responsible for the Swedish part of the project.

The EPICE project researchers are studying the use of a large range of interventions, in order to identify factors that promote their dissemination in everyday clinical practice. 19 medical interventions have been selected based on their clinical importance, the solidity of the evidence base and the feasibility of collecting data. These interventions concern such aspects as the promotion of breastfeeding, the use of antenatal corticosteroids to promote lung maturation prior to a very preterm delivery and the transfer of pregnant women before delivery to specialised centres with a neonatal intensive care unit.

About EPICE:

The EPICE project was launched in 2011 and has been supported by the European Union (FP7) for five years. It is coordinated by the French National Health and Medical Research Institute, and involves 12 partners and 6 associate partners, based in 11 European countries. The project's multidisciplinary team has expertise in obstetrics, neonatal medicine, epidemiology and health services research.