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J Pediatr Surg. 2005 Nov;40(11):1726-31.

A randomized controlled trial of elective preterm delivery of fetuses with gastroschisis.

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Feto-maternal Medicine Unit, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds, LS2 9NS, UK.



Elective preterm delivery of the fetus with gastroschisis may help to limit injury to the extruded fetal gut and thus promote faster recovery of neonatal gut function and earlier hospital discharge. This hypothesis has not previously been tested in a prospective randomized controlled trial.


Between May 1995 and September 1999, all women referred to a single tertiary center before 34 weeks' gestation with a sonographically diagnosed fetal gastroschisis were invited to participate in a randomized controlled trial. Eligible patients were randomized to elective delivery at 36 weeks or to await the onset of spontaneous labor. The method of delivery was not prescribed by the trial. Primary outcome measures in the neonate were the time taken to tolerate full enteral feeding (150 mL/kg per day) and duration of hospital stay.


Of 44 eligible women, 42 were randomized, 21 to elective delivery and 21 to await spontaneous labor. There were 20 liveborn infants in each group. Four babies in the elective group and 4 in the spontaneous group delivered before 36 weeks' gestation but were included in the analysis on an intention-to-treat basis. Mean gestational age at delivery was 35.8 weeks in the elective group and 36.7 weeks in the spontaneous group. Primary closure of the gastroschisis was achieved in a similar proportion (80%-85%) of infants in both groups. Two babies in the elective group died from short gut complications. In the survivors, there was a trend in favor of a shorter median time to achieve full enteral feeding (30.5 vs 37.5 days) and a shorter median duration of hospital stay (47.5 vs 53 days) in the elective group, but this was not statistically significant. These findings remained unaltered when the data were reanalyzed after (a) excluding infants with intestinal atresia or (b) excluding infants born before 36 weeks' gestation.


Although limited by the small number of patients, this randomized controlled trial demonstrates no significant benefit from elective preterm delivery of fetuses with gastroschisis.

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