Very premature babies are at a significantly high risk of having moderate-to-severe and severe neurodevelopmental impairments later on in childhood, researchers from The Ottawa Hospital, Ontario, Canada, reported in Jama Pediatrics.

Gregory P. Moore, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., and colleagues carried out a meta-analysis of previously reported studies. They wanted to determine the rate of moderate-to-severe to severe neurodevelopmental impairment by gestational age in very early premature babies who were followed up four and eight years later.

According to a report issued by the World Health Organization and some other agencies, 10% of babies worldwide are born prematurely.

Dr. Moore said he and his colleagues carried out the study so that they could have more comprehensive information to give parents of very premature babies.

The team only searched for publications written in the English language, and found nine studies that met their criteria.

The infants in the studies were born between 22 and 25 weeks of gestational age.

Premature infant with ventilatorShare on Pinterest
An infant female born at 26 weeks 6 days gestation

The authors found that:

  • All the very young preemies had a significant risk of developing moderate to severe impairment.
  • Those born at 22 weeks gestation had a 43% risk of moderate-severe impairment, and a 31% risk of severe impairment.
  • The risk went down between each week of gestation.

The Globe and the Mail quote Dr. Moore as saying severe impairments could include no useful vision, total deafness, profoundly low IQs, and an inability to move unaided.

Moderate to severe impairments, Dr. Moore added, are variations on those conditions – partial deafness, some ability to move about (possibly with leg braces), higher IQs and some vision.

In an abstract in the journal, the authors concluded:

“Knowledge of these data, including the limitations, should facilitate discussion during the shared decision-making process about care plans for these infants, particularly in centers without their own data. More prospective, high-quality, complete cohorts are needed.”

The hearts of premature infants form and work differently when they become adults, compared to people who were born at full-term, researchers from the University of Oxford reported in the journal Circulation.

Consequently, premature babies have a much higher risk of cardiovascular diseases later in life.

The researchers found that the right ventricle of the heart of adults who had been born prematurely were more likely to be faulty. The right ventricle receives blood from the right atrium and pumps it to the lungs to be oxygenated.