Maryland Researchers Stress Importance of Car Seat Screening for Premature Infants

New research from the University of Maryland illuminates just how important it can be for premature babies to undergo car seat safety screenings.

Because preemies have underdeveloped organs, they are at high risk of injuries during labor and delivery (birth injuries), as well as in early infancy (1). Car seat

Traveling by car can be especially dangerous for premature infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all preemies be observed in their car seats for at least 90 minutes prior to hospital discharge (2). However, hospitals sometimes neglect to do this for late preterm babies (those born between 34 and 37 weeks of pregnancy) under the assumption that these babies have similar cardiorespiratory maturity to term infants.

Is it true that late preterm infants don’t need car seat screening?

Recently, researchers Aimee Magnarelli, Nina Shah Solanki, and Natalie L. Davis examined risks for late-preterm infants who underwent car seat tolerance screenings at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital (3).

Of the 918 preemies on which they had data, approximately 4.6% failed their first screening. Twenty-four percent of those who failed the first screening also failed the second screening. 

Babies who had spent time in both the NICU and the neonatal nursery were more likely to fail the car seat screening. 

“Failure” of the screening indicates that a baby has a serious health issue such as low blood oxygen, a slow heartbeat, or long pauses in breathing (more than 20 seconds), which can make traveling in a car seat unsafe. 

Magnarelli and colleagues note that, “A concerning number of late-preterm infants demonstrated unstable respiratory status when placed in their car seat.”

The bottom line

Marilyn J. Bull, one of the authors of the American Academy of Pediatrics paper on car seat screening, wrote a commentary about this research (4). She wrote that this new study “…highlights 3 major issues of importance to clinicians and families caring for infants born late preterm. One is the importance of determining cardiorespiratory stability, especially before being tested for car seat tolerance in preparation for discharge; the second is the importance of appropriate use of car safety seats at the time of hospital discharge; and the third is the value of having a hospital discharge policy in place.”

About ABC Law Centers

ABC Law Centers was established to focus exclusively on birth injury cases. A “birth injury” is any type of harm to a baby that occurs just before, during, or after birth. This includes issues such as oxygen deprivation, infection, and trauma. While some children with birth injuries make a complete recovery, others develop disabilities such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

If a birth injury/subsequent disability could have been prevented with proper care, then it constitutes medical malpractice. Settlements from birth injury cases can cover the costs of lifelong treatment, care, and other crucial resources. 

If you believe you may have a birth injury case for your child, please contact us today to learn more. We are happy to talk to you free of any obligation or charge. In fact, clients pay nothing throughout the entire legal process unless we win. 

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  1. ABC Law Centers. (n.d.). Retrieved December 26, 2019, from
  2. Bull, M. J., & Engle, W. A. (2009). Safe transportation of preterm and low birth weight infants at hospital discharge. Pediatrics, 123(5), 1424-1429. 
  3. Magnarelli, A., Solanki, N. S., & Davis, N. L. (2019). Car Seat Tolerance Screening for Late-Preterm Infants. Pediatrics
  4. Bull, M. J. (2019). Car Seat Tolerance Screening for Late Preterm Infants. Pediatrics

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