The world’s tiniest premature baby grows up to be healthy.
Despite being a miniscule 280g at birth, roughly the size of a can of soda, Madeline Mann is now an honours college student majoring in psychology. Another super-preemie is Rumaisa Rahman, born at 260g, and is now a healthy first grader.
Madeline was born in 1989 at 27 weeks, and won the world record for smallest surviving baby, while seven-year-old Rumaisa (born at 26 weeks) currently holds the smallest birth-weight record.
Follow-up research was conducted on these tiny babies in order to track their development by Dr Jonathan Muraskas of Loyola University Medical Center, Illinois, the doctor who resuscitated them.
While these are both success stories which help to inform research into foetal viability, it is still extremely risky to deliver a baby this prematurely. 25 weeks is generally accepted by most of the medical fraternity as the earliest point in pregnancy at which they will attempt to intervene medically to save a preemie’s life.
How low can you go?
In Japan, doctors are investigating the possibility that even a baby born at 22 weeks could, in theory, survive, according to the Daily Mail.
Both Madeline and Rumaisa required extensive medical interventions in order to survive, and both risked permanent health challenges.
Dr. Edward Bell, a University of Iowa paediatrics professor runs an online registry of the world's tiniest babies, born weighing less than 396g. Bell estimates that about 7,500 U.S. babies are born each year weighing less than one pound (0.454kg), and that about ten per cent survive.
Doctors agree that gestational age is more important than size, though, as lung development and other critical milestones contribute to viability.
Despite all of the risks, it’s great to hear success stories which go against the odds, and stretch the boundaries of science and human achievement.
Do you think doctors should keep exploring how to keep super-preemies alive?
By: Scott Dunlop