Very low birth weight and growth into adolescence

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000 Aug;154(8):778-84. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.154.8.778.


Objective: To compare the growth and pubertal development of very low-birth-weight (VLBW) children (birth weight <1500 g) and normal-birth-weight (NBW) children (birth weight >2499 g) to adolescence to determine if, and at what age, VLBW children "catch up."

Design: Inception cohort study to age 14 years.

Setting: Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia.

Patients: Eighty-six consecutive survivors with a birth weight less than 1000 g, 120 consecutive survivors with a birth weight of 1000 to 1499 g, and 60 randomly selected NBW controls. Children with cerebral palsy at age 14 years were excluded.

Main outcome measures: Weight, height, and head circumference measurements at birth and ages 2, 5, 8, and 14 years converted to z (SD) scores.

Results: At age 14 years, pubertal development was similar in NBW and VLBW children. At ages 2, 5, 8, and 14 years, VLBW children were significantly shorter and lighter and had smaller head circumferences than NBW children. The differences in height and weight between VLBW and NBW children were less apparent as SD scores improved in VLBW children over time. Within the VLBW group, compared with children with a birth weight of 1000 to 1499 g, those with a birth weight less than 1000 g had significantly lower weight z scores earlier in childhood but not at age 14 years, significantly lower height z scores only at age 2 years, and significantly lower head circumference z scores throughout childhood.

Conclusion: This group of VLBW children experienced late catch-up growth to age 14 years but remain smaller than their NBW peers. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154:778-784

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent / physiology*
  • Cephalometry
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Growth*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight / physiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male