, Volume 26, Issue 9, pp 1139-1149
Date: 27 Mar 2010

Preterm birth and neurodevelopmental outcome: a review

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Abstract

Background

The incidence of preterm delivery and the survival rate of preterm newborns are rising, due to the increased use of assisted reproductive technology associated with multiple gestations and improved technology in obstetrics and neonatology, which allow saving preterm infants at earlier gestational ages. As a consequence, the risk of developmental disabilities in preterm children is high, and clinical pictures need to be fully defined.

Methods

Narrative review including articles regarding neurodevelopmental disorders published in the international medical literature and reported in Pub Med between the years 2000 and January 2010.

Results

Although survival rates of extremely low birth weight infants (ELBW) significantly increased during the last decade, the substantial stability of disability trends in this population was disappointing. Late-preterm infants, who account for about 75% of all preterm births and had not been considered at risk for adverse long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes in the past, are now reconsidered as more likely to develop such events, though their risk remains lower than in ELBW.

Conclusions

The findings of the studies discussed in our article support the importance of early diagnosis in order to make decision about appropriate treatment of preterm infants.