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Pediatrics. 2019 Jul;144(1). pii: e20183819. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-3819.

Neurologic Outcome After Prematurity: Perspectives of Parents and Clinicians.

Author information

Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine,
Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
Fuqua School of Business, Sanford School of Public Policy, School of Medicine.
Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine.
School of Nursing, and.



Parents and clinicians caring for premature infants face high-stakes and time-sensitive decisions about care. We aimed to characterize how parents and clinicians discuss outcome in the context of decision-making for premature infants.


In this qualitative descriptive study, we used a case-based, prospective design. Cases of extreme prematurity were targeted. Parents and clinicians completed semistructured interviews about care decisions longitudinally in the first year of life. Interview data were analyzed by using directed content analysis.


Sixteen parents and 53 clinicians of 10 infants completed 178 interviews (n = 115 parent; n = 63 clinician). Two primary themes emerged. First, parents and clinicians discussed prognostic information differently from each other. Parents focused on whether their infant would survive, whereas clinicians concentrated on neurologic outcome and the potential for life with disability. Parent discussion of the future was broad and rooted in hope and spirituality. Clinician prognostic language was narrowly focused and probabilistic. Second, we identified barriers and facilitators to a shared understanding of infant outcome. Clinicians perceived that parents were unaware of or unable to process important information about the big picture. Parents valued consistent therapeutic relationships; transitions of care and underused roles of the care team undermined this consistency. Clinical uncertainty forced parents and clinicians to "wait and see" about the future.


Parents and clinicians discuss and weigh information about the future differently from each other as they consider choices for extremely premature infants. Future work should characterize the impact of these differences on prognostic communication and decision-making.

[Available on 2020-07-01]

Conflict of interest statement

POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors have indicated they have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

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