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Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 1992 Oct;6(4):434-59.

Evaluation of care for the preterm infant: review of literature on follow-up of preterm and low birthweight infants. Report from the collaborative Project on Preterm and Small for Gestational Age Infants (POPS) in The Netherlands.

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Department of Paediatrics, University Hospital, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Since the introduction of neonatal intensive care in the 1960s, mortality in very preterm and very low birthweight infants has been decreasing steadily. Consequently, interest in the outcome of surviving infants is growing. Restriction of health care resources has stressed the need for information concerning the effect of individual treatment components on mortality and morbidity. Concern about the quality in apparently normal survivors has been increasing as well. The current flood of papers on these subjects illustrates the interest in these issues. The first part of this paper reviews the methodology used in follow-up studies in the past decades. It aims at methodological problems that hamper comparison between studies and preclude unequivocal conclusions. New treatment techniques seldom were but should be evaluated by randomised trials. To monitor the combined effects of changing obstetric and neonatal techniques on perinatal outcome, studies in geographically defined populations are recommended using data from early pregnancy until at least preschool age. Comparability of outcomes could be enhanced by international agreement on standardisation of assessment methods and outcome measures. In the second part the results concerning gestational age- and birthweight-specific mortality, impairments and disabilities and the risk factors for such disorders are discussed. Increased survival of even the tiniest infants is clearly established. This increase in survival has not yet been accompanied by an apparent increase in major morbidity. However, many minor impairments are reported, occurring often in combination and predisposing these children to deviations of normal development. Important changes in the manifestation of brain damage appear to occur during development. These findings stress the importance of long-term follow-up studies.

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