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University of Iowa News Release

April 10, 2003

UI Maintains Registry Of Tiniest Babies In The World

When Edward Bell, M.D., University of Iowa professor of pediatrics, cared for the first baby weighing less than 400 grams at the UI Hospitals and Clinics in 1994, the child's parents wanted to know if there were other children like their "preemie."

To answer questions like these, Bell created the Tiniest Babies Registry in 1999.

A list of the 52 smallest babies in the world known to survive, the registry serves to help physicians and parents of premature infants faced with difficult decisions regarding their baby's care and treatment. The registry is located at http://www.medicine.uiowa.edu/tiniestbabies.

Bell, who also directs the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children's Hospital of Iowa, hopes to collect data on the long-term health, growth and development of the children listed in the registry.

Each year, more babies are added to the registry, which includes five babies born in Iowa and a baby born as far back as 1936. The registry lists six babies born in 2002.

"It shows that we've become more successful at saving premature babies," Bell said. "If you give them a chance, they can survive."

The infants listed in the registry include those reported in the lay media as well as in medical journals. The registry records birth year, place of birth, birth weight, sex and gestational age. The site also allows parents and health care providers to update information on the child.

Bell noted that gestational age, rather than birth weight, is a more important factor to consider in the prognosis of an extremely premature baby. Gestational age is determined by the number of weeks from the mother's last menstrual period before pregnancy. For an average full-term pregnancy, the gestational age is 40 weeks; most babies in the registry were born before 30 weeks. The higher the gestational age, the more developed the child's organs are likely to be, therefore the more likely the child is to survive.

Over the past few years, Bell has noted some trends among children listed in the registry, including that 43 of the 52 babies are girls.

"We know that girl fetuses mature faster," he said. "Their lungs and other organs develop faster."

Because the registry also keeps updated information about the children, Bell has found that the majority of the children in the registry are doing well, although they tend to be smaller than their classmates.

"There are so few of these children, and they're scattered throughout the world," Bell said. "By collecting data on this special group of children in one place, the registry will provide useful information on their potential growth and quality of life. For the family and physician with a newly born tiny baby, the registry will offer hope as they face the long uphill fight for their baby's survival."

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at www.uihealthcare.com.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT(S): David Pedersen, (319) 335-8032, david-pedersen@uiowa.edu. Writer: Jessie Rolph