LiST: Lives Saved Tool

IJE OxfordCousens, S., et al., Antibiotics for pre-term pre-labour rupture of membranes: prevention of neonatal deaths due to complications of pre-term birth and infection. Int J Epidemiol, 2010. 39 Suppl 1: p. i134-43.


Background In high-income countries, it is standard practice to give antibiotics to women with pre-term, pre-labour rupture of membranes (pPROM) to delay birth and reduce the risk of infection. In low and middle-income settings, where some 2 million neonatal deaths occur annually due to complications of pre-term birth or infection, many women do not receive antibiotic therapy for pPROM.


Objectives To review the evidence for and estimate the effect on neonatal mortality due to pre-term birth complications or infection, of administration of antibiotics to women with pPROM, in low and middle-income countries.


Methods We performed a systematic review to update a Cochrane review. Standardized abstraction forms were used. The quality of the evidence provided by individual studies and overall was assessed using an adapted GRADE approach.


Results Eighteen RCTs met our inclusion criteria. Most were from high-income countries and provide strong evidence that antibiotics for pPROM reduce the risk of respiratory distress syndrome [risk ratio (RR) = 0.88; confidence interval (CI) 0.80, 0.97], and early onset postnatal infection (RR = 0.61; CI 0.48, 0.77). The data are consistent with a reduction in neonatal mortality (RR = 0.90; CI 0.72, 1.12).


Conclusion Antibiotics for pPROM reduce complications due to pre-term delivery and post-natal infection in high-income settings. There is moderate quality evidence that, in low-income settings, where access to other interventions (antenatal steroids, surfactant therapy, ventilation, antibiotic therapy) may be low, antibiotics for pPROM could prevent 4% of neonatal deaths due to complications of prematurity and 8% of those due to infection.

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Background In high-income countries, administration of antenatal steroids is standard care for women with anticipated preterm labour. However, although >1 million deaths due to preterm birth occur annually, antenatal steroids are not routine practice in low-income countries where most of these deaths occur.

Objectives To review the evidence for and estimate the effect on cause-specific neonatal mortality of administration of antenatal steroids to women with anticipated preterm labour, with additional analysis for the effect in low- and middle-income countries.

Methods We conducted systematic reviews using standardized abstraction forms. Quality of evidence was assessed using an adapted GRADE approach. Existing meta-analyses were reviewed for relevance to low/middle-income countries, and new meta-analysis was performed.

Results We identified 44 studies, including 18 randomised control trials (RCTs) (14 in high-income countries) in a Cochrane meta-analysis, which suggested that antenatal steroids decrease neonatal mortality among preterm infants (<36 weeks gestation) by 31% [relative risk (RR) = 0.69; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.58–0.81]. Our new meta-analysis of four RCTs from middle-income countries suggests 53% mortality reduction (RR = 0.47; 95% CI 0.35–0.64) and 37% morbidity reduction (RR = 0.63; 95% CI 0.49–0.81). Observational study mortality data were consistent. The control group in these equivalent studies was routine care (ventilation and, in many cases, surfactant). In low-income countries, many preterm babies currently receive little or no medical care. It is plausible that antenatal steroids may be of even greater effect when tested in these settings.

Conclusions Based on high-grade evidence, antenatal steroid therapy is very effective in preventing neonatal mortality and morbidity, yet remains at low coverage in low/middle-income countries. If fully scaled up, this intervention could save up to 500 000 neonatal lives annually.

Featured News

Fourth LiST journal supplement published

November 10, 2017 – We are pleased to announce that The Lives Saved Tool in 2017: Updates, Applications, and Future Directions is the fourth supplement to be published by the LiST team.

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