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Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Feb 15;173(4):459-67. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwq399. Epub 2010 Dec 6.

Assessing the value of customized birth weight percentiles.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Customized birth weight percentiles are weight-for-gestational-age percentiles that account for the influence of maternal characteristics on fetal growth. Although intuitively appealing, the incremental value they provide in the identification of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) over conventional birth weight percentiles is controversial. The objective of this study was to assess the value of customized birth weight percentiles in a simulated cohort of 100,000 infants aged 37 weeks whose IUGR status was known. A cohort of infants with a range of healthy birth weights was first simulated on the basis of the distributions of maternal/fetal characteristics observed in births at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Canada, between 2000 and 2006. The occurrence of IUGR was re-created by reducing the observed birth weights of a small percentage of these infants. The value of customized percentiles was assessed by calculating true and false positive rates. Customizing birth weight percentiles for maternal characteristics added very little information to the identification of IUGR beyond that obtained from conventional weight-for-gestational-age percentiles (true positive rates of 61.8% and 61.1%, respectively, and false positive rates of 7.9% and 8.5%, respectively). For the process of customization to be worthwhile, maternal characteristics in the customization model were shown through simulation to require an unrealistically strong association with birth weight.

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