Little is known about school-age functioning in children with intestinal failure (IF). This study examines neurocognitive outcomes
of children with IF at ages 4 to 8 years treated at a single centre, along with relevant medical and demographic variables.
Between 2012 and 2016, neurocognitive assessments were administered to 28 children receiving treatment in our IF rehabilitation program, and included measures of intelligence, academics, learning/memory, language, visual-motor integration, and fine-motor dexterity. DSM-IV/V criteria were used to diagnose Learning Disability, Intellectual Disability, and/or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
Intellectual functioning ranged from extremely low to superior (Full Scale IQ range 53–123, mean = 89). Forty-six percentage received a cognitive/learning DSM diagnosis. Total number of first-year septic episodes correlated with poorer outcomes on the most cognitive measures. Adjusting for gestational age (61% were born <37 weeks), number of first-year septic episodes negatively predicted working memory, visual-motor integration, and visual memory scores. Additional factors correlating with poorer outcomes on ≥2 cognitive measures included length of first-year admissions, necrotizing enterocolitis diagnosis, and first-year sustained conjugated hyperbilirubinemia. Having ≥2 first-year septic episodes increased the likelihood of poorer outcome. Having a sibling was a significant positive predictor of working memory, processing speed, reading, and verbal learning skills.
Our data provides preliminary evidence that children with IF are at risk of neurocognitive problems at early school age. Managing septic events during the first year is one strategy that may help reduce long-term neurocognitive risks in this population.