Impact of neonatal intensive care on late preterm infants: developmental outcomes at 3 years.
McGowan JE., Alderdice FA., Doran J., Holmes VA., Jenkins J., Craig S., Johnston L.
BACKGROUND: Late preterm infants (LPIs) (34-36 weeks' gestation) account for up to 75% of preterm births and constitute a significant proportion of all neonatal admissions. This study assessed the impact of neonatal intensive or high-dependency care (IC) on developmental outcomes of LPIs at 3 years of age. METHODS: This cohort study included 225 children born late preterm in Northern Ireland during 2006. Children born late preterm who received IC were compared with children born late preterm who did not receive IC. Cognitive, motor, and language skills were assessed by using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Third Edition. Growth was assessed by using anthropometric measures of height and weight. RESULTS: LPIs who received IC were more often less mature (34 weeks' gestation), with lower birth weight (≤ 2500 g) and Apgar scores (<7 at 5 minutes) compared with the control group. They were more often born by cesarean delivery and more likely to have received resuscitation at birth. At 3 years of age, children born late preterm who received IC demonstrated similar cognitive, motor, and language skills compared with children in the control group. Measurements of growth also did not differ significantly between groups. CONCLUSIONS: Despite having increased maternal, perinatal, and neonatal risk factors, there were no significant differences in early childhood development between LPIs who received IC and those who did not. LPIs do not receive routine follow-up after IC and this study provides useful and reassuring data for parents and clinicians on the longer-term outcome of this infant group.