Premature Good News Long Awaited

By Scott LaFee

September 30, 2015 4 min read

Extremely premature infants are babies born before the 28th week of pregnancy, or basically three months earlier than the average human gestation. Being born so early in their prenatal development means these preemies confront a daunting host of immediate and long-term health threats. Indeed, their chances of simply surviving have been historically low.

But a new National Institutes of Health study shows that more and more extremely premature infants are surviving and escaping serious illness. The study reviewed birth records of more than 35,000 premature infants born from 1993 to 2012 across the country.

In 1993, only 52 percent survived; in 2012, it was 65 percent.

In 1993, infants born at 27 weeks who did not have a major illness had a survival rate of 29 percent; by 2012, it had risen to 47 percent.

"We're now seeing the results of that investment in improvements in survival and outcomes," said Dr. Rosemary Higgins of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Those improvements include advances in monitoring the health of unborn fetuses, improved fetal surgeries and more sophisticated drugs and postnatal treatment regimens. More than 450,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the United States.

Body of Knowledge

Your heart has its own electrical system. As long as it is receiving oxygen, it will continue to beat, even if it's separated from the rest of your body.

Life in Big Macs

One hour of installing rain gutters burns 408 calories (based on a 150-pound person), or the caloric equivalent of 0.6 Big Mac. (For folks living in the drought-stricken western half of the country, please refer to Wikipedia for an explanation of what a rain gutter is.)

Stories for the Waiting Room

More than half of Asian-Americans and nearly half of Hispanics in America with diabetes are undiagnosed, according to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doc Talk

Trim the hedge: to remove a long line of sutures.

Phobia of the Week

Amfisbitophobia: fear of arguing. (Just take my word for it.)

Never Say Diet

The Major League Eating record for reindeer sausage is 28 in 10 minutes, held by Dale Boone. (An aside, reindeer goes best with a Dasher of salt.)

Best Medicine

A man boarded a plane with six children. After settling them into their seats, a woman seated across the aisle from the man asked him, "Are all of those kids yours?'

"No," the man replied. "I work for a birth control device company. These are customer complaints."


"Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time." — American comedian Steven Wright

Curtain Calls

Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov became the first person to die during a space mission, after the parachute on his capsule failed to deploy upon re-entry in 1967.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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