A study of those survivors weighing 2000 g or less at birth born to residents of the South East Thames Regional Health Authority in 1970, '71, and '73 was carried out by abstracting data from health visitors' and school health records. Some postnatal information was available for 78% of the children. Prevalences of reported impairments in relation to birthweight were 20% in babies of 1500 g or less, 13% in the group weighing 1501 to 1750 g, and 11% for those of 1751 to 2000 g. Only half the impairments in the first group were likely to be seriously disabling, and only a fifth were of obvious prenatal origin. In the heaviest group, about 3% were likely to become severely disabled, but in over two fifths with impairment, this was likely to be of prenatal origin and therefore more difficult to prevent. This factor together with the larger number of survivors of birthweight 1751 to 2000 g than of 1500 g or less, indicate that an increase in impairments may be seen in the heavier group if their mortality continues to fall.
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