To assess the risk of long-term sequelae after acquired cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection in premature and sick term infants, 55 CMV infected patients were matched prospectively with 55 control patients and these matched pairs were evaluated at 3 years of age. Sensorineural hearing losses were present in four of 43 CMV infected patients (all mild-moderate) and in two of 43 controls (one severe). The incidence of neurologic sequelae was not increased in CMV infected patients with birth weight greater than 2000 gm. Among patients with birth weight less than 2001 gm, moderately abnormal EEGs were found in four (17%) of 23 CMV infected patients and in one (4%) of 23 controls, and severe handicaps occurred in four (14%) of 29 CMV infected patients and in two (7%) of 29 controls. Severe handicaps in premature infants were significantly (P less than 0.05) associated with early onset of CMV excretion (less than 8 weeks of age) and severe cardiopulmonary disease. Among the premature infants who were documented early excretors, three of 13 had severe neuromuscular impairment, four of 13 had severe handicaps (DQ less than 70, severe neuromuscular impairment, or profound loss of vision or hearing), and an additional four had DQs of 70 to 79. Among their matched control subjects, none of 13 had severe neuromuscular impairment, two of 13 had severe handicaps, and an additional two had DQs between 70 and 79. None of the premature infants who were documented late excretors (greater than or equal to 8 weeks of age) had any neurologic sequelae. The risk of neurologic sequelae and handicap may be increased in premature infants with onset of CMV excretion in the first 2 months of life.