Objective: To investigate the effectiveness of individualized developmental care in reducing medical and neurodevelopmental sequelae for very low-birth-weight infants.
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Setting: Newborn intensive care unit.
Patients: Thirty-eight singleton preterm infants, free of known congenital abnormalities, weighing less than 1250 g, born before 30 weeks' gestation, mechanically ventilated within 3 hours of delivery and for more than 24 hours in the first 48 hours, randomly assigned to a control or an experimental group.
Intervention: Caregiving by nurses specifically trained in individualized developmental care; observation and documentation of the infants' behavior within 12 hours of admission, and subsequently every 10th day; developmental care recommendations and ongoing clinical support for the nurses and parents based on regular observation of the infant by developmental specialists; and the availability of special caregiving accessories.
Main outcome measures: Medical outcome, including average daily weight gain; number of days the infant required mechanical ventilation, oxygen, gavage tube feeding, and hospitalization; severity of retinopathy of prematurity, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, pneumothorax, and intraventricular hemorrhage; pediatric complications; age at discharge; and hospital charges. Neurodevelopmental outcome, including Assessment of Preterm Infants' Behavior scale and quantified electroencephalography (2 weeks after due date); and Bayley Scales of Infant Development and Kangaroo Box Paradigm (9 months after due date).
Results: The infants in the experimental group had a significantly shorter duration of mechanical ventilation and supplemental oxygen support; earlier oral feeding; reduced incidence of intraventricular hemorrhage, pneumothorax, and severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia; improved daily weight gain; shorter hospital stays; younger ages at hospital discharge; and reduced hospital charges compared with the infants in the control group. At 2 weeks after their due dates, these infants also showed improved autonomic regulation, motor system functioning, self-regulatory abilities, and visual evoked potential measures; and at 9 months, they had improved Bayley Mental and Psychomotor Developmental Index scores, as well as Kangaroo Box Paradigm scores.
Conclusion: Very low-birth-weight preterm infants may benefit from individualized developmental care in the neonatal intensive care unit in terms of medical and neurodevelopmental outcome.