Fifteen preterm infants and 17 born at full term whose gestational ages ranged from 25 to 34 weeks and 38 to 42 weeks, respectively, were examined initially at postconceptional ages ranging from 38 to 44 weeks and subsequently at 46 to 71 weeks. Each examination included measurement of bone mineral content of the mid-forearm by single photon absorptiometry. For the preterm group, the mean (SD) value of bone mineral content at the first examination was 109.0 (27.6) mg/cm and was significantly lower than the corresponding value of 194.4 (19.6) mg/cm for the whole full term group. The mean subsequent rate of mineral accretion in the preterm group was 8.70 (4.60) mg/cm/week, the mean individual duration of observation being 9.7 weeks. Rate of mineral accretion for the full term group was independent of the duration of observation and averaged 1.60 (2.20) mg/cm/week. The difference between mean values of rate of mineral accretion in the preterm and full term groups was highly significant. Our results show that there is a phase of rapid mineral accretion starting at 40 weeks' postconception in preterm infants that substantially reduces the perinatal mineralisation deficit.
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