Aim: To assess cognitive, academic and behavioural functions in 15-year-old very low birthweight (VLBW) children and relate results to gender, neonatal risk factors, growth and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings.
Methods: Sixty-one out of 86 VLBW children and 57/86 term controls born in the south-east region of Sweden were assessed regarding cognition (WISC III), school outcome, behaviour and growth. VLBW children were examined using cerebral MRI.
Results: VLBW children performed significantly lower than their term controls on WISC III and 49% had IQ lower than 85. Ten VLBW children with IQ < 70 had not been clinically identified earlier and a majority of these children attended mainstream school. VLBW girls had significantly lower total problems scores. Using MRI, white matter damage (WMD) was detected in 16 (27%) children. VLBW boys with WMD had significantly lower IQ than those without. Small occipito-frontal circumference (OFC) correlated with low IQ. Mechanical ventilation and intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH) showed significant correlations with lower IQ and reading skills.
Conclusion: VLBW children achieved poorer results compared with their controls in cognitive tests. Mechanical ventilation and IVH were related to poorer academic outcome. Many of the children with low IQ had not been identified earlier. Therefore, we recommend that VLBW children undergo an IQ test before beginning school in order to receive adequate support.