Preterm outcomes research: A critical component of neonatal intensive care

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While early preterm outcome studies described the lives of preterm survivors to justify the efforts required to save them, subsequent studies demonstrated their increased incidence of cerebral palsy, mental retardation, sensory impairments, minor neuromotor dysfunction, language delays, visual-perceptual disorders, learning disability and behavior problems compared to fullterm controls. Because infants born at the lower limit of viability require the most resources and have the highest incidence of neurodevelopmental disability, there is concern that resources have gone primarily to neonatal intensive care and are not available for meeting the followup, health, educational and emotional needs of these fragile infants and their families. Despite many methodological concerns, preterm outcome studies have provided insight into risk factors for and causes of CNS injury in preterm infants. Nevertheless, it remains difficult to predict neurodevelopmental outcome for individual preterm infants. Perinatal and neonatal risk factors are inadequate proxies for neurodevelopmental disability. Recent randomized controlled trials with one to five year neurodevelopmental followup have provided valuable information about perinatal and neonatal treatments. Recognizing adverse longterm neurodevelopmental effects of pharmacological doses of postnatal steroids is a sobering reminder of the need for longterm neurodevelopmental followup in all neonatal randomized controlled trials. Ongoing longterm preterm neurodevelopmental studies, analysis of changes in outcomes over time and among centers, and evaluation of the longterm safety, efficacy and effectiveness of many perinatal and neonatal management strategies and proposed neuroprotective agents are all necessary for further medical and technological advances in neonatal intensive care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-233
Number of pages13
JournalMental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 24 2002


  • CNS injury
  • Neonatal care
  • Preterm infants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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