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Acta Paediatr. 2013 Sep;102(9):883-8. doi: 10.1111/apa.12319. Epub 2013 Jul 10.

Poor postnatal head growth in very preterm infants is associated with impaired neurodevelopment outcome.

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Department of Paediatrics II, Neonatology, Innsbruck Medical University, Innsbruck, Austria.



To examine the association between neurodevelopmental outcome and head circumference (HC) in a cohort of very preterm infants and in this context to investigate the relevance of suboptimal head size.


Somatometric data were obtained at birth, discharge and 3, 12 and 24 months for all infants born in Tyrol <32 weeks gestational age. Growth data are presented as z scores. HC was defined as microcephaly (>2 SD below mean), suboptimal (>1 SD below mean) or normal head size (<1 SD below mean). Neurodevelopmental outcome was quantified at 12 and 24 months using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development II.


The percentage of infants with suboptimal head size increased until the age of 24 months and was related to adverse outcome. The association was strongest between HC at 3 months and psychomotor and mental outcome as quantified using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development.


Poor postnatal head growth was common in our study cohort. Both microcephaly and suboptimal head size were associated with impaired neurodevelopmental outcome. Suboptimal head size at 3 months was found to be particularly associated with adverse neurodevelopmental outcome.


Head growth; Neurodevelopment; Postnatal growth; Preterm

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