The focus of neonatal intensive care has been on very low birthweight infants, who comprise only 1.4% of neonates. Too little attention is paid to moderately preterm infants that we call macropremies or moderately low birthweight infants (MLBW, with birthweights 1500-2500 grams). Admitting over half MLBW infants to normal nurseries presumes that they have few needs and an excellent prognosis similar to fullterm newborns. It does not take into account the macropremie's vulnerability to complications of prematurity due to immature organ systems. Obstetricians are increasingly willing to deliver these infants prematurely for signs of fetal distress. As many as 25% of children with cerebral palsy referred to a disability clinic in Paris were MLBW, with hypoxic-ischemic-inflammatory associated disorders in one-third. The majority of MLBW infants who required neonatal intensive care at a tertiary care center in Baltimore had complications of prematurity: 47% had respiratory problems, 20% had feeding intolerance and 9% had hypoglycemia. MLBW infants comprise 5-7% of the neonatal population but account for 14% of neonatal deaths, 18-37% of children with cerebral palsy and 7-12% of children with mental retardation. Increasing the level of neonatal care for the macropremie's transition to extrauterine life would be economically feasible if it prevented as few as 30% of cases of major disability. A change in attitude towards this low risk (but not risk free) group of MLBW infants will both reduce morbidity and improve their health and neurodevelopmental outcome. It includes: 1) Providing an intermediate level of neonatal care for a short duration, with close monitoring and prompt intervention as needed, and 2) Neonatal neurodevelopmental screening to allow focused neurodevelopmental followup of MLBW infants with abnormalities.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.