, Xiaobin Shen2
1Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, University of Western Australia
2Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Melbourne
The Australian Research Council
Premature birth complicates 6-10% of births, is associated with 70% of neonatal mortality, and often leads to other diseases that have substantial long-term consequences for neonates. In the last 30 years there has been no change in the incidence of premature birth. A major difficulty has been the absence of effective methods for identifying those women destined to deliver preterm. Even when a woman presents in preterm labour, she has less than 50% chance of a preterm delivery.
The overall aim of this project is to develop risk estimates for preterm birth that may be used in clinical practice for the management of pregnancy. The project is concerned with developing computational methods, software, and a clinical interface that may be used by obstetricians. As well as identifying women at high risk of preterm birth, this approach will also help identify women at very low risk of preterm birth, and so those women more suited to management by midwives, either in a hospital or home birth setting.
Summary of National/Community Benefit:
There is a clear need for this R&D based on financial analysis as well as from a quality
of life perspective, including that of babies, mothers and the health professionals that look
after them. In Australia, there are about 17,000 preterm birth babies delivered each year,
which are responsible for more than 70% of perinatal mortality. The average financial cost
for each preterm birth infant is about $1,500/day in neonatal intensive care. If a baby was
born before 26 weeks, the average cost will be about $90,000 per surviving infant. There are
additional substantial long-term costs as the health of surviving babies is often poor. This
research falls under National Research Priority 2: Promoting and Maintaining Good Health Priority Goal
1: A Healthy Start to Life. It is noted again that this general method has much wider applications, and
could be used for the diagnosis and management of many disease processes. If successful, it would
represent a fore-runner of a new generation of smart software and IC technology. This is Research
Priority 3 Frontier technologies--Goals: Breakthrough Science and Smart Information Use.
Prof. Roger Smith: Director of Mother and Babies Research Centre, John Hunter Hospital, University of Newcastle.
Roger interested in all aspects of the endocrinology of pregnancy, especially the role and regulation of
placental corticotrophing releasing hormone.