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Neonatal neurobehavior associated with developmental changes from age 2 to 3 in very preterm infants.

OBJECTIVE: Understand how high-risk infants' development changes over time. Examine whether NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale (NNNS) profiles are associated with decrements in developmental outcomes between ages 2 and 3 years in infants born very preterm.

STUDY DESIGN: The Neonatal Outcomes for Very preterm Infants (NOVI) cohort is a multisite prospective study of 704 preterm infants born <30 weeks' gestation across nine university and VON affiliated NICUs. Data included infant neurobehavior measured by NNNS profiles at NICU discharge and the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (BSID-III) at ages 2 and 3 years. Generalized estimating equations tested associations between NNNS profiles and BSID-III composite score changes between ages 2 and 3 years.

RESULTS: The final study sample included 433 infants with mean gestational age of 27 weeks at birth. Infants with dysregulated NNNS profiles were more likely to have decreases in BSID-III Cognitive (OR = 2.66) and Language scores (OR = 2.53) from age 2 to 3 years compared to infants with more well-regulated neurobehavioral NNNS profiles. Further, infants with more well-regulated NNNS profiles were more likely to have increases in BSID-III Cognitive scores (OR = 2.03), rather than no change, compared to infants with dysregulated NNNS profiles.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Prior to NICU discharge, NNNS neurobehavioral profiles identified infants at increased risk for developing later language and cognitive challenges. Findings suggests that neonatal neurobehavior provides a unique, clinically significant contribution to the evaluation of very preterm infants to inform treatment planning for the most vulnerable.

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