Aim: To study the effect of very low birthweight on hospital care and morbidity, and their relationship to gender, birthweight and neonatal complications.
Methods: Eighty-five very low birthweight (VLBW; ≤1500 g) children and term controls born in 1987–1988 in south-east region of Sweden were checked in registers regarding readmissions and diagnoses, need for habilitation and child psychiatric care up to 15 years of age. Ophthalmological examinations were made at age 4 in 64 of VLBW and 61 of control children, and at age 15 in 59 of VLBW and 55 of control children.
Results: VLBW boys had three times more readmissions compared with normal weight control boys (p = 0.003). Neonatal risk factors for readmissions were gestational age under 30 weeks (OR 3.1), birthweight less than 1000 g (OR 4.6), mechanical ventilation (OR 9.5) and more than 60 days' stay in neonatal ward (OR 5.0).
A minority of VLBW children had an impairment/handicap such as cerebral palsy (CP) in five (5.9%) children, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) in five children, and blindness due to retinopathy of prematurity in one child. One child in the control group had ADHD. At the 15-year examination median visual acuity in the best eye was better in the control group (1.6) than in the VLBW group (1.3) (p = 0.009). 32% of VLBW children and 11% of controls had latent or manifest strabismus (p = 0.007).
Conclusion: Risk factors for readmissions were gender, low gestational age, birthweight <1000 g or mechanical ventilation. A minority of VLBW children had a handicap that influenced their daily life activities at 15 years of age.