One of the things that premature babies may need after birth is oxygen treatment. Ventilators can help weak lungs get enough air until a baby can breathe on their own. However, there has been disagreement about how much oxygen should be given to babies born before 29 weeks.
A study at the University of Alberta aims to answer that question. Part of the problem is that doctors are unsure about how much oxygen to give to even healthy full-term babies who need more air.
Standard practice in the early 2000s used to be to give babies 100% oxygen. While this did help them breathe, it caused higher mortality rates and an increased rate in leukemia compared to regular air. Too much oxygen in the body can lead to a lot of difficulties in premature babies.
Now the standard for full-term babies is to use regular air, but doctors are unsure if that should be the case for extremely premature babies due to a lack of lung development. They know that both 100% oxygen and normal air lead to higher mortality.
The study will test oxygen percentages of 30% and 60% for babies born between 23 and 28 weeks. The amount of oxygen in normal air is 21%. There will be a followup at 18 and 24 months to test for results. The hope is that higher oxygen levels will improve long-term outcomes.