Fifteen extremely low birthweight (ELBW) white infants (those weighing 1000 g or less) were observed at birth, within eight weeks of birth and near 40 weeks postconception. On the second and third occasions, weight, crown-heel length, and bone mineral content of their forearms were measured. Fifteen infants born at full term on whom similar measurements were made soon after birth acted as controls. Between 32 and 39 weeks the median weight of ELBW infants increased from 970 g to 1850 g and crown-heel length from 35.7 cm to 41.0 cm. There was no evidence, however, of bone mineral accretion in the measurement region; initial and final median measurements of bone mineral content were 76 mg/cm and 86 mg/cm, the median individual difference being only 4 mg/cm with an interquartile range of 25 mg/cm. Median weight, crown-heel length, and bone mineral content of the control group were 3270 g, 50.6 cm, and 196 mg/cm, respectively. Compared with the controls, ELBW infants at 39 weeks were a median (interquartile range) of 1420 (525) g lighter, 9.9 (3.9) cm shorter, and had a bone mineral content deficit of 108 (32) mg/cm. In terms of weight and crown-heel length ELBW infants at 39 weeks were comparable with infants born and observed at 32 weeks' gestation; compared with these infants the bone mineral content deficit in the ELBW group was about 33%.
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