Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Low birth weight and subsequent impairment

This is no surprise to anyone who has spent signficant time in a NICU:
Our results reveal that ELBW children have extremely high ratesof chronic conditions compared with NBW children. These conditionsinclude asthma, cerebral palsy, and visual disability, as well as poorer cognitive ability, academic achievement, motor skills, and social adaptive functioning. These differences are evident even in ELBW children who do not have major neurosensory impairments and manifest in a higher overall frequency of functional limitations and need for compensatory aids and services above those routinely required by children in general.
ELBW = extremely low birth weight = less than 1 kg = less than 2.2 lbs and
NBW = normal weight = greater than 2.5kg = greater than 5.5 lbs
so these kids are really small. But as the article points out
In the United States in 2002, there were 22 845 live births with a birth weight of 500 to 999 g, of whom approximately 70% survived.

Meaning about 15,500 kids a year survive at this size. No offense to anyone, but humans simply aren't designed to be born this prematurely. Tremendous advances have been made in keeping extremely premature babies alive, but therapies to decrease disability (nitric oxide, nutrition, supplements, gentler ventilation) have not had much success.

The NYTimes article about the study is here.


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