A premature infant is an infant born before 37 weeks' gestation. Prematurity has an occurrence of 10% to 12% of live births in the US.
In addition to immediate post-birth resuscitation, efforts to reduce excessive oxygen exposure, hyperventilation, hypothermia, and hypoglycemia must be made. Consultation with a neonatologist as soon as possible is recommended to provide expertise to reduce potential morbidity.
Gestational age determination done within hours of birth is important for designating further care of the premature newborn. The risk of adverse outcomes varies inversely with gestational age.
The New Ballard Score uses measurements of neuromuscular and physical maturity to complement the maternal history and ultrasonographic findings to estimate gestational age, although a first-trimester ultrasound remains the most accurate assessment of gestational age.
Extremely premature infants (gestational age <28 weeks) exhibit the greatest morbidity and mortality, although complications may occur with any degree of prematurity.