A new study has found that the chances of newborns surviving a low-risk version of a condition called gastroschisis differ greatly according to hospital.
Gastroschisis is a condition in which babies have a hole in their abdomen near the umbilical cord. The uncomplicated variant of the condition, where the hole is the only abdominal anomaly, is fairly easy to repair, and 97 percent of babies survive it.
However the study conducted by Johns Hopkins surgeons, which included researcher Meghan Arnold, M.D., a surgical resident at the Johns Hopkins Children's Centre, found that in some hospitals, the number of children who should survive the condition after treatment are far less.
In the study the researchers compared the mortality rates among 1,775 infants born with uncomplicated gastroschisis in 40 hospitals.
Only hospitals that had treated at least 25 newborns with gastroschisis were included.
The analysis found that out of the 40 hospitals, one-fourth i.e. 10 babies had death rates higher than 2.9 percent.
Of the 10, two hospitals had very poor death rates, 8.6 percent and 14.3 percent.
"We went into this prepared to see some differences, but we didn't expect to see these striking variations from hospital to hospital in these fairly uncomplicated cases," Arnold said.
Researchers have said that because the surgical techniques to repair gastroschisis are uniform across hospitals, the next step should be finding whether the difference in survival could be due to factors such as different nurse-to-patient ratios, variations in medication and nursing protocols and the availability of pediatric subspecialists.
The study was presented at the American Academy of Paediatrics Conference.