Optimizing neurodevelopmental outcomes after prematurity: lessons in neuroprotection and early intervention

Minerva Pediatr. 2010 Oct;62(5):485-97.


In recent decades, advances in maternal-fetal, obstetrics, and neonatal medicine have led to the increased survival of preterm infants. Very preterm infants (<32 weeks gestation), who comprise a small fraction (1.4%) of all neonates, have had dramatic increases in their survival. In addition, late preterm infants (33-36 weeks gestation) are a growing population of all preterm births and may include over 10% of all births. Both populations experience ongoing and significant challenges once they are discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), including medical, nutritional, and developmental issues. Similarly, preterm infants may experience ongoing challenges once they enter school. As a result, clinicians should be aware of the unique neurodevelopmental issues that affect this population of children, including what they experience at different developmental stages. This review will describe how selected neonatal interventions impact on very preterm and late preterm infants. In addition, we will discuss the developmental and functional components of school readiness in very preterm and late preterm infants, using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) as a framework for health, enablement, disability, and participation. This framework allows us to describe children's strengths and challenges across body structure and body function, activities, and social roles in the context of child and family supports. We will explicitly describe the role of physicians and health professional teams in providing ongoing support and coordination of care throughout childhood for preterm infants who have experienced neonatal intensive care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / growth & development*
  • Nervous System / growth & development*