Prematurity and Long-Term Respiratory Morbidity—What Is the Critical Gestational Age Threshold?

Gil Gutvirtz, Tamar Wainstock, Eyal Sheiner, Gali Pariente

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Respiratory morbidity is a hallmark complication of prematurity. Children born preterm are exposed to both short-and long-term respiratory morbidity. This study aimed to investigate whether a critical gestational age threshold exists for significant long-term respiratory morbidity. A 23-year, population-based cohort analysis was performed comparing singleton deliveries at a single tertiary medical center. A comparison of four gestational age groups was performed according to the WHO classification: term (≥37.0 weeks, reference group), moderate to late preterm (32.0–36.6 weeks), very preterm (28.0–31.6 weeks) and extremely preterm (24.0–27.6 weeks). Hospitalizations of the offspring up to the age of 18 years involving respiratory morbidities were evaluated. A Kaplan–Meier survival curve was used to compare cumulative hospitalization incidence between the groups. A Cox proportional hazards model was used to control for confounders and time to event. Overall, 220,563 singleton deliveries were included: 93.6% term deliveries, 6% moderate to late preterm, 0.4% very preterm and 0.1% extremely preterm. Hospitalizations involving respiratory morbidity were significantly higher in children born preterm (12.7% in extremely preterm children, 11.7% in very preterm, 7.0% in late preterm vs. 4.7% in term, p < 0.001). The Kaplan–Meier survival curve demonstrated a significantly higher cumulative incidence of respiratory-related hospitalizations in the preterm groups (log-rank, p < 0.001). In the Cox regression model, delivery before 32 weeks had twice the risk of long-term respiratory morbidity. Searching for a specific gestational age threshold, the slope for hospitalization rate was attenuated beyond 30 weeks’ gestation. In our population, it seems that 30 weeks’ gestation may be the critical threshold for long-term respiratory morbidity of the offspring, as the risk for long-term respiratory-related hospitalization seems to be attenuated beyond this point until term.

Original languageEnglish
Article number751
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • Gestational age
  • Pediatric hospitalization
  • Prematurity
  • Respiratory morbidity
  • Threshold


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