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Voice problems in school-aged children following very preterm birth


Background and objective Very preterm children may be at risk of voice abnormalities (dysphonia). Risk factors previously identified in extremely preterm children include female gender, multiple intubations, complicated intubation and very low birth weight. This study sought to identify the prevalence of dysphonia in very preterm children, at school age.

Methods Children born between 23 and 32 weeks’ gestation were included in this prospective observational study. Participants were randomly selected from a sample stratified by gestational age and number of intubations, and were aged between 5 and 12 years at the time of assessment. Clinical voice assessments were conducted by a speech pathologist, and a diagnosis of dysphonia was made based on the presence and severity of disturbance to the voice. Retrospective chart review identified medical and demographic characteristics.

Results 178 participants were assessed. The prevalence of dysphonia in this cohort was 61%. 31% presenting with significant dysphonia, that is, voice disturbance of greater than mild in severity. Female gender (p=0.009), gestational age (p=0.031) and duration of intubation (p=0.021) were significantly associated with dysphonia although some preterm children with dysphonia were never intubated.

Conclusions Significant voice abnormalities were observed in children born at up to 32 weeks’ gestation, with intubation a major contributing factor.

Trial registration number ACTRN12613001015730.

  • Neonatology
  • Ent
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Outcomes research

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