Background.

Growth curves described in the 1960s are used to classify neonate intrauterine growth as normal or abnormal. Our objective was to determine whether continued use of these curves is appropriate.

Methods.

From 1996 to 1998, we collected birth weight, length, head circumference, estimated gestational age (EGA), gender, race, and place of birth (<4000 feet or ≥4000 feet) on 27 229 neonates to evaluate the effects of each on intrauterine growth and the diagnoses of small for gestational age (SGA) and large for gestational age (LGA). We compared the gestation-specific growth parameters derived from our sample with those reported in 1966 and 1969.

Results.

Gestational age had the largest influence on each growth parameter. Race and gender both had effects on birth weight. Female neonates were smaller than male neonates, and black neonates were smaller than Hispanic and white neonates at each EGA.

For neonates with an EGA <30 weeks, our data had a smaller variance and lower average weights, lengths, and head circumferences than those reported in 1966 and in 1969. For neonates >36 weeks, the variance was similar, but our curves showed that neonates in our sample were larger and heavier. Use of the older growth curves to classify neonates as SGA, LGA, and appropriate for gestational age (AGA) led to significantly different rates of each by gender and race.

Conclusions.

Intrauterine growth patterns previously described and commonly used to classify neonates as AGA are inaccurate for use in current populations and lead to gender- and race-specific diagnoses of SGA and LGA that are misleading. neonates, growth, race, gender.

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