Infections in very LBW infants stunt neurodevelopment and growth

April 1, 2005

In what is perhaps the largest study to date to evaluate the impact of neonatal infection on adverse outcomes in early childhood, researchers have found that neonatal infections among extremely low-birthweight (ELBW) infants are associated with serious adverse neurodevelopmental and growth outcomes in early childhood that contribute to long-term disability.

In what is perhaps the largest study to date to evaluate the impact of neonatal infection on adverse outcomes in early childhood, researchers have found that neonatal infections among extremely low-birthweight (ELBW) infants are associated with serious adverse neurodevelopmental and growth outcomes in early childhood that contribute to long-term disability.

The prospective cohort study included over 6,000 infants weighing 401 to 1,000 g at birth. Sixty-five percent of the ELBW survivors had at least one infection during their postbirth hospital stay: 1,538 developed clinical infection alone; 1,922 developed sepsis alone; 279 developed sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC); and 193 developed meningitis with or without sepsis.

Compared with uninfected infants, those who were in any of the four infection groups were significantly more likely to develop cerebral palsy (range of significant odds ratio [OR], 1.4-1.7), low Bayley Scales of Infant Development II scores on the mental development index (OR, 1.3-1.6) and psychomotor development index (OR, 1.5-2.4), and vision impairment (OR, 1.3-2.2). Infants with sepsis and NEC were at highest risk for adverse outcomes.