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Keywords:

  • cognitive;
  • neuropsychological;
  • outcome;
  • developmental follow-up

Abstract

Improved survival in preterm infants has broadened interest in cognitive and neuropsychological outcomes. The incidence of major disabilities (moderate/severe mental retardation, neurosensory disorders, epilepsy, cerebral palsy) has remained consistent, but high prevalence/low severity dysfunctions (learning disabilities, ADHD, borderline mental retardation, specific neuropsychological deficits, behavioral disorders) have increased. The follow-up literature contains methodologic problems that make generalizations regarding outcome difficult, and these are discussed. Although mean IQs of former VLBW infants generally are in the low average range and are 3–9 points below normal birth weight peers, these scores mask subtle deficits in: visual-motor and visual-perceptual abilities, complex language functions, academics (reading, mathematics, spelling and writing), and attentional skills. There is an increased incidence of non-verbal learning disabilities, need for special educational assistance, and behavioral disorders in children born prematurely. Males have more problems, and there is a trend for worsening outcome over time, due to emergence of more subtle deficits in response to increased performance demands. In addition to IQ and achievement testing in follow-up, there should be evaluation of executive functions and attention, language, sensorimotor functions, visuospatial processes, memory and learning, and behavioral adjustment. MRDD Research Reviews 2002;8:234–240. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.