Objective As part of a larger project on very preterm pregnancies and births (ACTION), all infants born at 22–31 weeks gestation and discharged alive in five Italian regions (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Toscana, Marche, Lazio and Calabria) were invited for a paediatric examination and neuromotor functional assessment at 2 years of age adjusted for prematurity.
Methods Cognitive, language and behavioural assessment was carried out through the Italian version of the Nottingham questionnaire (Johnson S et al, Dev Med Child Neurol 2004;46:389). Additional information about child’s lifestyle, healthcare since discharge and mothers’ own health and work were obtained through a telephone interview performed after the hospital visit. Written informed consent was obtained from the children’s parents.
Results Among 1757 neonates admitted to intensive care in 2003–5, 1414 were discharged alive. Seven died before age 2 years and two moved abroad; 1102 returned for the follow-up visit, whereas for 32 we obtained information from the family doctor. Overall follow-up data were thus available for 81% of eligible children (87% of the Italians). Most children were free from major disability. However, 6% could not walk without assistance, 1.5% were blind or almost blind and 1% had severe hearing problems; between 3% and 4% could not use hands to feed self and were unable to pronounce recognisable words. The frequency of impairment was higher at lower gestational age (22–26 weeks).
Conclusion Most very preterm graduates from intensive care do well on neuromotor and sensorial follow-up; however, a non-negligible proportion has serious problems affecting everyday life.