Aim: To compare the long-term growth and neurodevelopmental outcomes at 36 months adjusted age in preterm infants (birthweight (BW) < or = 1250 g) with necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) with BW-matched controls.
Methods: This is a case control study performed at a regional tertiary care neonatal intensive care unit. Infants with stage II or III NEC admitted to a regional tertiary care neonatal unit between 1995 and 2000 were identified. Each infant with NEC was matched by BW (+/-100 g) to next two infants admitted in the unit without NEC. Growth and neurodevelopmental outcomes at 36 months are compared.
Results: In total, 51 infants with NEC and 102 controls met study eligibility criteria and 146/153 (94.3%) were prospectively followed for 36 months. Infants with NEC had more culture-proven sepsis (35.3% vs. 10.8%, P < 0.001); patent ductus arteriosus requiring therapy (64.7% vs. 45%, P = 0.02), chronic lung disease (60.7% vs. 45%, P = 0.04) and longer hospital stay (84 days vs. 71 days, P < 0.0001). There were no significant differences in growth outcomes between the two groups at 36 months. Overall 24% of infants with NEC had one major neurodevelopmental disability compared with 10% among control infants. Infants who developed NEC had significantly higher cognitive delay (i.e. cognitive index <70) and visual impairment. A logistic regression model identified NEC as a predictor of cognitive delay.
Conclusion: Preterm infants who develop NEC are at a significantly higher risk for developing neurodevelopmental disability. We recommend close neurodevelopmental follow up for all < or =1250 g infants who develop stage II or III NEC.