Common questions about outpatient care of premature infants

Am Fam Physician. 2014 Aug 15;90(4):244-51.


Preterm births (deliveries before 37 weeks' gestation) comprise 12% of all U.S. births and are responsible for onethird of all infant deaths. Neonatal medical advances have increased survival, and primary care physicians often care for infants who were in the neonatal intensive care unit after birth. Functions of the primary care physician include coordination of medical and social services, nutritional surveillance, and managing conditions associated with prematurity. Parental guidance and encouragement are often necessary to ensure appropriate feeding and infant weight gain. Enriched formula and nutrient fortifiers are used for infants with extrauterine growth restriction. Iron supplementation is recommended for breastfed infants, and iron-fortified formula for formula-fed infants. Screening for iron deficiency anemia in preterm infants should occur at four months of age and at nine to 12 months of age. Gastroesophageal reflux is best treated with nonpharmacologic options because medications provide no long-term benefits. Neurodevelopmental delay occurs in up to 50% of preterm infants. Developmental screening should be performed at every well-child visit. If developmental delay is suspected, more formalized testing may be required with appropriate referral. To prevent complications from respiratory syncytial virus infection, palivizumab is recommended in the first year of life during the respiratory syncytial virus season for all infants born before 29 weeks' gestation and for infants born between 29 and 32 weeks' gestation who have chronic lung disease. Most preterm infants have minimal longterm sequelae.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / organization & administration*
  • Developmental Disabilities / prevention & control*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards*
  • Weight Gain*