Objective: To examine the influence of postnatal energy quotient (EQ, energy intake/kg body weight per day) on head circumference (HC) growth and mental development of very low birth weight (VLBW), small for gestational age (SGA, <10th percentile) preterm infants.
Study design: SGA VLBW preterm infants (n = 46) with primarily symmetric intrauterine growth restriction were compared with 62 appropriate for gestational age (AGA) VLBW preterm infants and 73 term infants from the Bonn Longitudinal study.
Results: Twenty-seven of 46 (59%) of the SGA preterm infants showed complete HC catch-up growth by the age of 12 months, but mostly before 6 months after term (HC catch-up group). These infants had significantly higher mean EQs from day 2 to 10 than the group of 19 infants without HC catch-up (EQ, 95 vs 78). Mean EQs correlated significantly with developmental and intelligence quotients (DQ/IQ) from 18 months to 6 years. As adults, the HC of the HC catch-up group was not significantly different from that of the AGA preterm infants, the term infants, and their parents. The group without HC catch-up had smaller HC as adults.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that early postnatal high-energy nutrient intake for SGA preterm infants is needed to promote HC catch-up growth and to prevent negative consequences of undernutrition.