The purpose of this study was to examine predictors of outcome in very low birth weight (<1500 g) children. The very low birth weight sample consisted of 68 children weighing less than 750 g at birth and 65 children weighing 750 to 1499 g at birth who had been matched to the less than 750 g birth weight children in terms of hospital of birth, age, sex, and race. Mean ages for these two groups were 6.7 and 6.9 years, respectively. Outcomes were measured in terms of tests of cognitive function, neuropsychological abilities, and academic achievement and parent and teacher ratings of child behavior and school performance. A weighted sum of the number of major neonatal medical complications (Neonatal Risk Index) provided a composite measure of biological risk. Social risks were also assessed. Results indicated that the Neonatal Risk Index was the most consistent predictor of outcomes. Even after taking social risks into account, neonatal risk predicted overall cognitive ability and other achievement, neuropsychological, and behavior outcomes. Individual neonatal complications that predicted outcomes included severe cerebral ultrasonographic abnormality, chronic lung disease, necrotizing enterocolitis, and apnea of prematurity. Research and therapy to prevent or reduce neonatal complications and amelioration of social risks are of critical importance in improving outcomes of very low birth weight.
Address for reprints: H. Gerry Taylor. Ph.D., Department of Pediatrics, Rainbow Babies & Childrens Hospital, University Hospitals of Cleveland. 11100 Euclid Ave.. Peds Psych 6038. Cleveland. OH 44106-6038.
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