Improved survival in preterm infants has broadened interest in cognitive and neuropsychological outcomes. The incidence of major disabilities (moderate/severe mental retardation, neurosensory disorders, epilepsy, cerebral palsy) has remained consistent, but high prevalence/low severity dysfunctions (learning disabilities, ADHD, borderline mental retardation, specific neuropsychological deficits, behavioral disorders) have increased. The follow-up literature contains methodologic problems that make generalizations regarding outcome difficult, and these are discussed. Although mean IQs of former VLBW infants generally are in the low average range and are 3-9 points below normal birth weight peers, these scores mask subtle deficits in: visual-motor and visual-perceptual abilities, complex language functions, academics (reading, mathematics, spelling and writing), and attentional skills. There is an increased incidence of non-verbal learning disabilities, need for special educational assistance, and behavioral disorders in children born prematurely. Males have more problems, and there is a trend for worsening outcome over time, due to emergence of more subtle deficits in response to increased performance demands. In addition to IQ and achievement testing in follow-up, there should be evaluation of executive functions and attention, language, sensorimotor functions, visuospatial processes, memory and learning, and behavioral adjustment.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.