Prevalence and aetiology of neurological impairment in extremely low birthweight infants

J Paediatr Child Health. 1996 Apr;32(2):120-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.1996.tb00907.x.


Objective: To determine the prevalence and perinatal predictors of cerebral palsy, intellectual impairment, visual impairment and deafness in a cohort of extremely low birthweight (ELBW) infants at two years of age.

Methodology: The study population comprised 199 of the 224 (89%) ELBW infants managed at the Mater's Mothers Hospital, Brisbane, between July 1977 and February 1990 and who survived to two years. The prevalence of cerebral palsy, intellectual impairment, blindness and deafness was measured by clinical,psychometric and audiological assessment and the association with 24 risk factors examined.

Results: Cerebral palsy occurred in 20 children (10%). Risk of cerebral palsy was associated with ventricular dilatation, intraventricular haemorrhage, necrotizing enterocolitis and multiple birth, though only ventricular dilatation (OR 4.41; 95% CI 1.32-14.8) remained significant in the adjusted analysis. Intellectual impairment occurred in 20 children (10%) and was independently associated with ventricular dilatation (OR 15.0; 95% CI 2.2-102.8), ventilation F(i)(2) > 80% (OR 3.4; 95% CI 1.01-11.5), vaginal delivery (OR 3.5; 95% Cl 1.09-11.4) and male sex (OR 6.1; 95% Cl 1.67-22.3). No perinatal predictor was statistically associated with risk of deafness. Retinopathy of prematurity (OR 36.9; 95% Cl 2.8-495.5) was associated with risk of later visual impairment.

Conclusions: Intellectual impairment was associated with a broad range of perinatal variables. Cerebral palsy was associated with fewer variables, all of which were also associated with intellectual impairment. Neurologic injury was associated with male sex and multiple birth, which are not biological insults themselves, but may be markers of susceptibility to injury.

MeSH terms

  • Blindness / etiology*
  • Cerebral Palsy / etiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Deafness / etiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Intellectual Disability / etiology*
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors