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"What Can I Do to Enhance the Development of a Premature Infant with Chronic Lung Disease?"

Section Editor(s): Stein, Martin T. M.D.

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: April 2001 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p S165-S169
Challenging Case: Chronic Disease: Developmental and Behavioral Implications

Timmy was born at 32 weeks of gestation after an uncomplicated pregnancy until there was a spontaneous rupture of the membranes and preterm labor associated with chorioamnionitis. A 2-month hospitalization in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was associated with pneumonia, a Grade II intraventricular hemorrhage, chronic lung disease, and a slow weight gain in the nursery. He was discharged to home with plans for ongoing care by his pediatrician. The primary care pediatrician attended a multidisciplinary conference with the NICU staff and Timmy's parents. At the time of discharge from the nursery, at 38 weeks postconceptual age, Timmy still required oral diuretics and supplemental oxygen, as well as other medications such as iron. Timmy's respiratory rates were between 40 and 60 breaths per minute at rest, with mild intercostal retractions. He was discharged with a cardiorespiratory monitor.

The discharge examination revealed mild to moderate symmetrical hypotonia with intact deep tendon reflexes, shoulder girdle weakness, and a mild head lag. Timmy would regard a human face and a bright object and would follow them briefly. He became active and would thrash his extremities with minimal tactile, bright light, or auditory stimulation. Typically, he settled slowly with swaddling and a pacifier. Nursing was slow to develop; he was currently receiving one half of his calories at the breast and the remainder of his calories from bottle-feeding of fortified expressed breast milk.

As she prepared for the first office visit with Timmy and his parents, the pediatrician asked herself, "What can I do to enhance the developmental outcome for this child?"

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.