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Effects of gestation and birth weight on the growth and development of very low birthweight small for gestational age infants: a matched group comparison

T Gutbrod, D Wolke, B Soehne, B Ohrt, K Riegel
Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition 2000, 82 (3): F208-14
10794788

AIMS: To investigate the effects of small for gestational age (SGA) in very low birthweight (VLBW) infants on growth and development until the fifth year of life.

METHODS: VLBW (< 1500 g) infants, selected from a prospective study, were classified as SGA (n = 115) on the basis of birth weight below the 10th percentile for gestational age and were compared with two groups of appropriate for gestational age (AGA) infants matched according to birth weight (AGA-BW; n = 115) or gestation at birth (AGA-GA; n = 115). Prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal risk factors were recorded, and duration and intensity of treatment were computed from daily assessments. Body weight, length, and head circumference were measured at birth, five and 20 months (corrected for prematurity), and at 56 months. General development was assessed at five and 20 months with the Griffiths scale of babies abilities, and cognitive development at 56 months with the Columbia mental maturity scales, a vocabulary (AWST) and language comprehension test (LSVTA).

RESULTS: Significant group differences were found in complications (pregnancy, birth, and neonatal), parity, and multiple birth rate. The AGA-GA group showed most satisfactory growth up to 56 months, with both the AGA-BW and SGA groups lagging behind. The AGA-GA group also scored significantly more highly on all developmental and cognitive tests than the other groups. Developmental test results were similar for the SGA and AGA-BW groups at five and 20 months, but AGA-BW infants (lowest gestation) had lower scores on performance intelligence quotient and language comprehension at 56 months than the SGA group. When prenatal and neonatal complications, parity, and multiple birth were accounted for, group differences in growth remained, but differences in cognitive outcome disappeared after five months.

CONCLUSIONS: Being underweight and with a short gestation (SGA and VLBW) leads to poor weight gain and head growth in infancy but does not result in poorer growth than in infants of the same birth weight but shorter gestation (AGA-BW) in the long term. SGA is related to early developmental delay and later language problems; however, neonatal complications may have a larger detrimental effect on long term cognitive development of VLBW infants than whether they are born SGA or AGA.

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