Infections in low-birth-weight infants are associated with impaired neurodevelopment and growth

ATLANTA--Neonatal infections in extremely-low-birth-weight infants significantly increase the likelihood of problems related to neurodevelopment and growth in early childhood, according to a study of more than 6,000 premature infants led by investigators at Emory University School of Medicine. The research findings are published in the November 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Neonatal infections are frequent complications of extremely-low-birth-weight infants in intensive care, and are associated with prolonged hospitalization and death. In the current study, investigators wanted to find out whether the adverse outcomes of neonatal infections continue into early childhood. Led by Barbara J. Stoll, MD, professor and chair of pediatrics at Emory School of Medicine, the research team used data collected on very-low-birth-weight infants by academic medical centers participating in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network.

The infants studied were born between 1993 and 2001 and weighed between 14.2 ounces and 35.3 ounces (401-1,000 grams) at birth. Sixty-five percent of the low-birth-weight infants in the study had at least one infection during their hospitalization after birth. After leaving the hospital, they returned for follow-up between 18 and 22 months after conception and were assessed for cognitive and neuromotor development, neurologic status, vision and hearing, and growth (weight, length, and head circumference).

Compared with uninfected infants, infected infants were significantly more likely to have adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes at follow-up, including cerebral palsy, low scores in mental development and psychomotor development on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development II test, or vision impairment. Neonatal infection also was associated with impaired head growth, which is known to be a predictor of poor neurodevelopmental outcome.

Contact: Holly Korschun
Emory University Health Sciences Center

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