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Advances in neonatal care allow survival of extremely premature infants, who are at risk of handicap. Neurodevelopmental follow up of these infants is an essential part of ongoing evaluation of neonatal care. The neonatal care in resource limited developing countries is very different to that in first world settings. Follow up data from developing countries is essential; it is not appropriate to extrapolate data from units in developed countries. This study provides follow up data on a population of very low birth weight (VLBW) infants in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The study sample included all VLBW infants born between 01/06/2006 and 28/02/2007 and discharged from the neonatal unit at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH). Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development Version 111 (BSID) 111 were done to assess development. Regression analysis was done to determine factors associated with poor outcome.
178 infants were discharged, 26 were not available for follow up, 9 of the remaining 152 (5.9%) died before an assessment was done; 106 of the remaining 143 (74.1%) had a BSID 111 assessment. These 106 patients form the study sample; mean birth weight and mean gestational age was 1182 grams (SD: 197.78) and 30.81 weeks (SD: 2.67) respectively. The BSID (111) was done at a median age of 16.48 months. The mean cognitive subscale was 88.6 (95% CI: 85.69 - 91.59), 9 (8.5%) were < 70, mean language subscale was 87.71 (95% CI: 84.85 - 90.56), 10 (9.4%) < 70, and mean motor subscale was 90.05 (95% CI: 87.0 - 93.11), 8 (7.6%) < 70. Approximately one third of infants were identified as being at risk (score between 70 and 85) on each subscale. Cerebral palsy was diagnosed in 4 (3.7%) of babies. Factors associated with poor outcome included cystic periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), resuscitation at birth, maternal parity, prolonged hospitalisation and duration of supplemental oxygen. PVL was associated with poor outcome on all three subscales. Birth weight and gestational age were not predictive of neurodevelopmental outcome.
Although the neurodevelopmental outcome of this group of VLBW infants was within the normal range, with a low incidence of cerebral palsy, these results may reflect the low survival of babies with a birth weight below 900 grams. In addition, mean subscale scores were low and one third of the babies were identified as "at risk", indicating that this group of babies warrants long-term follow up into school going age.