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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 17:43 GMT 18:43 UK
What is the EPICure Study?

Professor Kate Costeloe
Professor Kate Costeloe is one of the co-authors of the report. Picture by Patrick Barrie/BBC

The EPICure study was established in 1995 to determine the outcome of survival and rates of disability of extremely premature babies in the UK.

The study was started in 1995 by Professor Kate Costeloe and Dr Alan Gibson, who were aided by Sally Carne and Fiona Stacey.

These four people collected extensive data on the births of all babies who were born up to 25 weeks and 6 days between March and December of that year.

The study focused on all 276 neonatal units across the UK and Ireland, who provided data on all babies admitted for neonatal intensive care.

Of the 4004 births up to 25 weeks and 6 days, 811 infants were admitted to intensive care and 314 survived to discharge home.

The third study... is currently awaiting publication, although Panorama was given exclusive access to some of its findings
Identifying information was collected at discharge on the survivors so that these infants and their parents could be contacted for a formal assessment of health status at a later age.

Initial reports

So far the study has produced two reports. The initial report studied children from birth to the age of one year, but the authors wanted to make it a long term study.

The second report focused on the progress of the children at the age of two and a half.

Each child was examined by an independent paediatrician to determine health status in terms of presence of disability, medical and neurological morbidity, developmental performance and behaviour.

In addition, hospital admissions and community support needed was also looked at to enable the authors to achieve a wider picture.

Age six report

The third study, was carried out last year and looked at the children at the age of six.

This report is currently awaiting publication, although Panorama was given exclusive access to some of its findings.

The authors of the study hope that it will go beyond simply showing survival rates and rates of disability in premature babies.

They also want to identify factors at birth which could give an indication as to the long term outcome for the survivors.

Panorama: Miracle baby grows up is broadcast on BBC One on Wednesday, 22 September, 2004 at 21:00 BST.

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