Objective: To determine whether a multifaceted intervention decreased the incidence of failure to thrive (FTT) in a group of preterm infants with low birth weights and improved the 3-year intelligence, health, growth, and behavior status of the children with FTT.
Design: Three-year, prospective, randomized, clinical trial.
Setting: Eight large university hospital sites throughout the United States.
Sample: Nine hundred fourteen preterm infants with low birth weights who were born at the sites and met study criteria.
Intervention: Home visits weekly during the first year of life and biweekly thereafter until the age of 3 years to provide family support and implement two curricula; and attendance at a child development center from 12 months until 3 years of age, 5 days a week, to deliver an early childhood educational intervention.
Results: The incidence of FTT did not differ between the treatment and control groups (20% vs 22%). Overall, children with FTT in the treatment group were not different from children with FTT in the follow-up group on any of the outcome variables. However, after controlling for other factors, treatment group membership significantly contributed to the prediction model of 36-month IQ (P = .005) for the children with FTT. In addition, children with FTT in the intervention group with higher compliance demonstrated higher 3-year IQ and better behavior scores than the children with FTT in the low-compliance group.
Conclusions: The intervention did not change the incidence of FTT or the 3-year outcomes in this low-birth-weight, preterm cohort. After controlling for multiple independent variables, marked effects on 3-year IQ were noted. In addition, these beneficial effects were most pronounced in families that were most complaint with the intervention.