Objective: The Prechtl method of qualitative assessment of general movements (GMs) has been shown to be a good predictor of neurologic outcome in fetuses, preterm infants, and term infants. The aim of this study was to compare the results of this new technique with those of traditional neurologic examination and of cranial ultrasonography in preterm infants.
Methods: Serial videotape recordings (with off-line assessment of GMs), ultrasound examination of the brain, and neurologic examinations were performed from birth until about 6 months of corrected age, on a group of 66 preterm infants whose gestational age ranged from 26 to 36 weeks (mean 30.7 weeks). The agreement between the two techniques and their predictive power, with respect to the neurologic outcome at 2 years of corrected age, were evaluated for five different age groups from preterm age to 65 weeks of postmenstrual age.
Results: Overall agreement of the neurologic and GM findings was 80.3% and strongly age related (lower during the preterm and term periods and higher thereafter). At all ages the results of GM observation correlated highly with neurologic outcome; they showed higher sensitivity and specificity than the neurologic examination. This held true in particular before term age, when poor neurologic responses might be related to transient complications, and at term age, mainly because of infants with normal neurologic examination results but unfavorable outcome. During the preterm period the ultrasound results showed a better specificity and a lower sensitivity to outcome than GM findings.
Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that quality assessment of GMs should be added to traditional neurologic assessment, neuroimaging, and other tests of preterm infants for diagnostic and prognostic purposes.