Background Being born with very low birth weight (VLBW) or small for gestational age (SGA) is related to subtle neurological deficits in childhood and adolescents. Few studies have investigated clinical cognitive outcome in these groups later in life.
Objective To assess cognitive performance in vlbw (BW<1500 g) and moderate (<10th PERC.) term SGA at 19 years of age compared with term controls.
Methods A cohort of 26 VLBW (mean BW 1232), 50 SGA (mean BW 2861) and 68 controls (mean BW 3650 g) born at term, were examined with a standardized psychometric IQ test (wais-III) to assess general cognitive ability.
Results The VLBW scored lower than the controls on a majority of the wais-III subscales, reflected in lower full-, verbal-, and performance IQ scaled scores. The SGA group obtained lower scores on subtests requiring verbal skills, resulting in lower verbal- and full-scale IQ-scores. The VLBW group scored lower than the SGA group on performance and full IQ, perceptual organization and processing speed, caused by lower scores in the VLBW group on 5 of 6 performance subtests. Interestingly, there were no differences between the SGA and control group on subtests reflecting short-time or working-memory. (see figure).
Conclusions These results indicate that being born VLBW may have a mild but global and lasting, impact on cognitive ability, while being born SGA at term may have a specific impact on language function.