OBJECTIVES. It is unclear whether declines in neonatal and infant mortality have led to changes in the occurrence of cerebral palsy. We conducted a study to examine and investigate recent temporal changes in the prevalence of cerebral palsy in a population-based cohort of very preterm infants who were 24 to 30 weeks of gestational age.

METHODS. A population-based cohort of very preterm infants who were born between January 1, 1993, and December 31, 2002, was evaluated by the Perinatal Follow-up Program of Nova Scotia. Follow-up extended to age 2 years to ascertain the presence or absence of cerebral palsy and for overall survival. Infant survival and cerebral palsy rates were compared by year and also in two 5-year periods, 1993–1997 and 1998–2002. Logistic regression analyses were used to identify factors that potentially were responsible for temporal changes in cerebral palsy rates.

RESULTS. A total of 672 liveborn very preterm infants were born to mothers who resided in Nova Scotia between 1993 and 2002. Infant mortality among very preterm infants decreased from 256 per 1000 live births in 1993 to 114 per 1000 live births in 2002, whereas the cerebral palsy rates increased from 44.4 per 1000 live births in 1993 to 100.0 per 1000 live births in 2002. Low gestational age, postnatal dexamethasone use, patent ductus arteriosus, severe hyaline membrane disease, resuscitation in the delivery room, and intraventricular hemorrhage were associated with higher rates of cerebral palsy, whereas antenatal corticosteroid use was associated with a lower rate.

CONCLUSION. Cerebral palsy has increased substantially among very preterm infants in association with and possibly as a consequence of large declines in infant mortality.

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