Late-preterm infants (LPIs) born at 34 to 36 weeks' gestation are increasingly regarded as being at risk for adverse developmental outcomes. To date, the early childhood development of LPIs has not been systematically considered.
To undertake a broad examination of literature relating to early childhood development at the ages of 1 to 7 years of LPIs born at 34 to 36 weeks' gestation.
We conducted a systematic review of early childhood outcomes in LPIs by using 9 electronic databases (January 1980 to March 2010). Bibliographies were reviewed. After examination of abstracts, ineligible studies were excluded. A specifically designed data-extraction form was used. The methodologic quality of included studies was assessed by using well-documented quality-appraisal guidelines.
Of 4581 studies, 10 (3 prospective and 7 retrospective cohort) were included. Studies were heterogeneous, and poorer outcomes were reported among LPIs in relation to neurodevelopmental disabilities, educational ability, early-intervention requirements, medical disabilities, and physical growth in comparison to term-born children. No identified study used healthy nonadmitted LPIs as a comparison group for admitted LPIs.
Evidence suggests that LPIs are at increased risk of adverse developmental outcomes and academic difficulties up to 7 years of age in comparison to term infants. An infant control group matched for gestational age has not been used; thus, for LPIs, the effect of neonatal admission on longer-term outcomes has not been fully explored. Systematic measurement of early childhood outcomes is lacking, and focused long-term follow-up studies are needed to investigate early childhood development after late-preterm birth.