Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 December 2009
Despite advances in perinatal care and nutrition, growth failure remains a major problem for preterm infants who require neonatal intensive care. This growth failure which occurs during the critical period of perinatal development has long-term implications for later growth attainment and for other aspects of health and development.
Reports of perinatal growth failure and the potential for catch-up growth prior to the era of neonatal intensive care pertained mainly to low birth weight (LBW) infants, those weighing less than 2.5 kg. More recent follow-up studies of children who experience intrauterine and/or neonatal growth failure pertain to preterm infants with very low birth weight (VLBW, less than 1500 g) or extremely low birth weight (ELBW, less than 1000 g). Initial reports following the introduction of neonatal intensive care in the 1970s described growth during infancy and childhood. As the children have reached adolescence and young adulthood, information has been gained concerning final height attainment and other aspects of body growth.
This chapter will review the current knowledge concerning the growth outcomes of preterm infants and the correlates of these outcomes, and also summarize the results of a longitudinal study of the growth of a cohort of VLBW children born in Cleveland, Ohio and followed to 20 years of age.
Definitions and review of methodology in studies of growth of preterm infants
The methodology used in the majority of studies has been to compare the mean growth measures of preterm infants, or rates of subnormal growth, to those of a term-born normal-birth-weight control population, or to national growth norms.