To determine the impact of very low birth weight (VLBW) on medical outcomes during childhood, we compared the health of 249 VLBW children born from 1977 through 1979 with that of 363 normal birth weight (NBW) control children at 8 years of age. Measures included the rates of specific illnesses, surgical procedures and accidents, growth, and other physical findings. The number of medical conditions and surgical procedures was significantly greater in the VLBW children than in the NBW control children. Eighteen percent of VLBW versus 5% of NBW children had had respiratory conditions (p < 0.001), mainly before 3 years of age. Surgical procedures were more common both before and after 3 years of age, but accidents occurred with similar frequency. The VLBW children had significantly lower weight, height, and head circumference and more minor physical stigmata. Thus medical illness, surgical interventions, and poor growth attainment are part of the ongoing morbidity of VLBW children during childhood.