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Cognitive outcome in childhood of birth weight discordant monochorionic twins: the long-term effects of fetal growth restriction


Aim Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is associated with poorer outcomes in later life. We used a monochorionic twin model with IUGR in one twin to determine its impact on growth and neurocognitive outcomes.

Methods Monochorionic twins with ≥20% birth weight discordance born in the north of England were eligible. Cognitive function was assessed using the British Ability Scales. The Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire was used to identify behavioural problems. Auxological measurements were collected. Generalised estimating equations were used to determine the effects of birth weight on cognition.

Results Fifty-one monochorionic twin pairs were assessed at a mean age of 6.3 years. Mean birth weight difference was 664 g at a mean gestation of 34.7 weeks. The lighter twin had a General Conceptual Ability (GCA) score that was three points lower (TwinL −105.4 vs TwinH −108.4, 95% CI −0.9 to −5.0), and there was a significant positive association (B 0.59) of within-pair birth weight differences and GCA scores. Mathematics and memory skills showed the largest differences. The lighter twin at school age was shorter (mean difference 2.1 cm±0.7) and lighter (mean difference 1.9 kg±0.6). Equal numbers of lighter and heavier twins were reported to have behavioural issues.

Conclusions In a monochorionic twin cohort, fetal growth restriction results in lower neurocognitive scores in early childhood, and there remain significant differences in size. Longer term follow-up will be required to determine whether growth or cognitive differences persist in later child or adulthood, and whether there are any associated longer term metabolic sequelae.

  • twins
  • monochorionic
  • cognition
  • intrauterine growth restriction

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