Neonatal intensive care and late preterm infants: health and family functioning at three years.
McGowan JE., Alderdice FA., Boylan J., Holmes VA., Jenkins J., Craig S., Perra O., Johnston L.
BACKGROUND: Late preterm infants (LPIs), born at 34+0 to 36+6 weeks of gestation contribute a significant proportion of all neonatal intensive care (NIC) admissions and are regarded as being at risk of adverse outcomes compared to term-born infants. AIM: To explore the health outcomes and family functioning of LPIs who required neonatal intensive care, at three years of age. STUDY DESIGN AND SUBJECTS: This cohort study included 225 children born late preterm, between 1 January and 31 December 2006 in Northern Ireland. Children admitted for NIC (study group, n=103) were compared with children who did not require NIC or who required special care only for up to three days (comparison group, n=122). OUTCOME MEASURES: Health outcomes were measured using the Health Status Questionnaire, health service usage by parent report and family functioning using the PedsQL™ Family Impact Module. RESULTS: LPIs who required NIC revealed similar health outcomes at three years in comparison to those who did not. Despite this, more parents of LPIs who required NIC reported visiting their GP and medical specialists during their child's third year of life. Differences in family functioning were also observed with mothers of LPIs who required NIC reporting, significantly lower levels of social and physical functioning, increased difficulties with communication and increased levels of worry. CONCLUSIONS: LPIs were observed to have similar health outcomes at three years of age regardless of NIC requirement. The increase in GP and medical specialist visits and family functioning difficulties observed among those infants who required NIC merits further investigation.