Aim: Physical growth in neurologically healthy preterm infants affects motor development. This study investigated the separate relationships between muscle and fat in infancy and later motor development and physical growth.
Methods: Muscle thickness and subcutaneous fat thickness of the anterior thigh were measured using ultrasound images obtained from neurologically healthy preterm infants at birth, 3, 6, 12 and 18 months' corrected age. We also obtained the Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory and Alberta Infant Motor Scale scores at 18 months' corrected age to assess motor ability and motor delay.
Results: Thirty preterm infants completed the study protocol. There was a significant positive correlation between motor ability and increments in subcutaneous fat thickness during the first 3 and 6 months' corrected age (r = 0.48 and 0.40, p < 0.05, respectively), but not between motor ability and muscle thickness growth in any of the periods. A secondary, logistic regression analysis showed that increments in subcutaneous fat thickness during the first 3 months were a protective factor for motor delay.
Conclusion: Subcutaneous fat accumulation in early infancy is more strongly associated with motor development and delay than muscle growth.
Keywords: Motor development; Muscle; Physical growth; Preterm; Subcutaneous fat.
©2014 Foundation Acta Paediatrica. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.