Vol. 5, No. 3, 1999 Page 7

More bad news for preemies

Behavior disorders, learning problems, and detectable brain abnormalities are alarmingly common in very premature infants, according to a new study.

Ann L. Stewart and colleagues evaluated 72 14- and 15-year-olds born after less than 33 weeks of gestation, and a control group of 21 teenagers who were not born prematurely. The investigation included MRI scans and neurological, cognitive, and behavioral assessments.

Of the 72 prematurely-born children, Stewart et al. say, "40 had unequivocally abnormal MRI [results]." In comparison, only one of the 21 controls had a clearly abnormal MRI. Unusual findings in many of the "preemie" group included abnormalities of the ventricles, corpus callosum, and white matter.

Eleven of the prematurely born subjects with abnormal MRIs had a history of aberrant behavior and nine had learning problems, while five of the prematurely-born subjects with normal MRIs had behavior problems and five had learning problems. Only one control-group child exhibited significant behavior problems, and only one had learning difficulties.

Stewart et al.'s findings are consistent with those of Miriam Cherkes-Julkowski (see related article, Crime Times, 1999, Vol. 5, No. 2, Page 2) , who found that 75% of the pre-term children she studied had or were suspected of having learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, language impairment, mild neurological impairment, or general academic problems.


"Brain structure and neurocognitive and behavioural function in adolescents who were born very preterm," A. L. Stewart, L. Rifkin, P. N. Amess, V. Kirkbride, J. P. Townsend, D. H. Miller, S. W. Lewis, D. P. Kingsley, I. F. Moseley, O. Foster, and R. M. Murray, The Lancet, Vol. 353, No. 9165, May 15, 1999, pp. 1653-1657. Address: Ann L. Stewart, Department of Paediatrics, Rayne Institute, University College of London Medical School, London, U.K.


"Brain anomalies seen in former preemies," Science News, Vol. 155, June 19, 1999.

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