There is great debate regarding the extent of intensive care interventions for extremely premature newborns. In this report, we describe Canadian neonatologists' attitudes towards delivery room resuscitation decisions in neonates at the threshold of viability.
We interviewed neonatologists (N = 121) practising in Canadian tertiary care neonatal units between June 2004 and April 2005, and asked whether they would support a parental request not to initiate resuscitation for newborns of 23 to 26 weeks' gestation. Bivariate analyses were performed to identify sociodemographic or cultural factors that might affect resuscitation decisions.
Most Canadian neonatologists would support a parental request not to initiate resuscitation of an infant at 23 and 24 weeks' gestation (98% and 80%, respectively). However, we observed heterogeneity across the country in attitudes primarily at 25 weeks, but also at 24 weeks' gestation. At 24 weeks' gestation, decisions also appear to be significantly related to personal experience with a disabled close friend or relative. For newborns of 25 weeks' gestation, neonatologists are divided: a majority (76%) would strongly advocate resuscitation and/or resuscitate a "viable" fetus against parental wishes, and a minority (24%) would agree not to initiate treatment. At 26 weeks' gestation, more than 97% would not support a request not to initiate resuscitation.
Attitudes of Canadian neonatologists towards resuscitation of newborns at the threshold of viability primarily differ at 25 weeks and to a lesser extent at 24 weeks of gestation. Our findings highlight important nuances in relation to existing national guidelines.