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Long term outcome of small versus appropriate size for gestational age co-twins/triplets


Background: Small for gestational age (SGA) extremely low birthweight (ELBW < 1000 g) survivors often remain small and/or have subnormal school performance. Some are twins/triplets with larger appropriate size for gestational age (AGA) co-twins/triplets.

Objective: To assess whether SGA ELBW twins/triplets remain different from their AGA co-twins/triplets.

Design, setting: During 1981–1999, 353 SGA ELBW neonates were admitted to our neonatal intensive care unit: 267 survived, 54/267 were twins/triplets, and 36/54 had AGA surviving co-twins/triplets. This longitudinal study describes the growth, neurodevelopmental outcome, and school performance of these 36 sets (3–17 years). The children were classified as normal, or having minor, moderate, or severe deficiencies.

Results: Values for birth weight (mean intrapair z score difference 2.26), length (2.74), and head circumference (2.62) were lower in SGA neonates than in AGA co-twins/triplets. SGA survivors remained smaller at 3–6 years of age: mean intrapair z score difference in weight, 1.37, height, 1.54, head circumference, 1.21. From 6 to 17 years, smaller differences persisted. Former SGA children had a tendency to have motor deficiencies (nine SGA v three AGA) and mental retardation (seven v four), same hearing loss (two v two), but significantly more visual abnormalities (15 v 11), behavioural disturbances (14 v five), and speech problems (14 v eight). Twenty four sets were in the same normal level class, often supported by familial/professional help.

Conclusions: Although raised in the same environment, SGA ELBW survivors remained smaller and had more visual/behavioural/speech problems, but most maintained grade level parity with their AGA siblings, with appropriate help.

  • AGA, appropriate size for gestational age
  • ELBW, extremely low birth weight
  • SEC, socioeconomic and cultural
  • SGA, small for gestational age

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