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Improving head growth in very preterm infants – a randomised controlled trial I: neonatal outcomes
  1. M J Tan,
  2. R W Cooke
  1. School of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  1. Professor R W I Cooke, Neonatal Unit, Liverpool Women’s Hospital, Crown Street, Liverpool L8 7SS, UK; mc19{at}


Background: Infants born very preterm are at an increased risk of poor growth in the post-natal period. Poor brain growth in this critical period may result from inadequate nutrition, and has long-term effects on neurodevelopmental outcome.

Aims: To examine the feasibility of providing macronutrients at amounts above current recommendations (hyperalimentation) to improve nutrition and head growth in preterm infants.

Methods: 142 infants <29 weeks' gestation were randomised to hyperalimented or standard parenteral and enteral nutrition. Growth was monitored from birth to 36 weeks' postmenstrual age (PMA). The primary outcome measure was occipitofrontal circumference (OFC) at 36 weeks' PMA.

Results: 55 infants in the intervention group and 59 infants in the control group survived to 36 weeks' PMA. 11 (16%) infants in the intervention group and 13 (18%) infants in the control group were small for gestational age (SGA). There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups in the primary outcome measure or other growth variables. Babies in the intervention group received significantly more energy and protein, but 80% were still in a cumulative protein/energy deficit at the end of 4 weeks. 20 (24%, p = 0.008) of those in deficit at 4 weeks had an OFC of more than 2 SD below the mean at 36 weeks' PMA, as opposed to none of those not in deficit.

Conclusion: Cumulative energy/protein deficit is predictive of poor head growth, but the delivery of adequate intakes remains a challenge in the preterm.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Ethics approval: This study received approval from the local research ethics committee, Liverpool, UK.

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