Partnership Achieves Big Drop in Extreme Preterm Births and Associated Risks

Partnership Achieves Big Drop in Extreme Preterm Births and Associated Risks

A partnership that aimed to reduce extreme preterm births has yielded more than a 40 percent improvement, two Arizona-based healthcare providers have announced.

Valley Perinatal Services said its partnership with Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale cut the number of extreme preterm births, a common risk factor for cerebral palsy (CP), by 43 percent at the medical center in the second half of 2016.

Premature birth, occurring before 37 weeks of gestation (called extreme premature birth if occurring before 28 weeks), is a risk factor for the development of cerebral palsy and other long-term conditions.

Premature birth does not mean a child will develop CP, but nearly half the children who do develop the disorder are born prematurely. Many of the neurological conditions associated with cerebral palsy, including damage to the brain’s white matter, are closely linked to preterm delivery.

The maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) program at Banner Thunderlake was led by Dr. Ravindu Gunatilake, a specialist at Valley Perinatal, who became medical director of the Banner Thunderbird program in July 2016. He immediately began using the methods developed by Dr. John Elliott, medical director of Valley Perinatal Services and a specialist in MFM and reducing preterm delivery.

“We worked collaboratively with the team at Banner Thunderbird to train them on implementing our protocols,” Gunatilake said in a press release. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the achievement of this milestone for mothers and babies.”

“Our team helps high-risk expectant mothers achieve the best possible outcome,” Elliott said. “The fact that we can help so many mothers, who come to us scared and with little hope, speaks to the effectiveness of our program.”

Chances of preterm delivery are hard to predict, but women already suffering from certain infections, or women with a shortened cervix, as well as those with a history of preterm delivery, are at greater risk.

“This is incredibly important work,” added Deb Krmpotic, CEO of Banner Thunderbird. “The closer to full-term that a baby can deliver, the better it is for the baby, so we’re incredibly pleased to see these kind of results from our combined efforts.”