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Adult height of preterm infants: a longitudinal cohort study
  1. E C Ferguson1,
  2. N P Wright1,
  3. A T Gibson2,
  4. S Carney1,
  5. A Wright1,
  6. J K Wales3
  1. 1Department of Endocrinology, Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2Department of Neonatology, Jessop Wing, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
  3. 3Department of Endocrinology, Children's Health Queensland and University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr E C Ferguson, Department of Endocrinology, Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust, Western Bank, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 2TH, UK; elspethferguson{at}


Background Many infants born prematurely experience growth failure following delivery, with subsequent catch-up growth. Traditionally catch-up was thought to be complete in the first few years of life. Most studies have focused on groups of infants defined by birth weight, for example <1500 g, resulting in disproportionate numbers of small for gestational age infants. This study aimed to determine whether appropriate weight for gestation (AGA) preterm born children reach their expected adult height when compared with term controls.

Methodology This UK based prospective longitudinal cohort study recruited 204 preterm children born at a tertiary neonatal unit during 1994 and 50 matched controls. Growth parameters have been assessed annually until the completion of growth.

Results There was no significant difference in the final height SD score (SDS) of children born at term (n=30) and those born prematurely and AGA (n=70) (0.45 term vs 0.22 preterm). Catch-up growth however, continued throughout the whole of childhood. When the difference between final height SDS and mid-parental height SDS were compared, there were again no significant differences (0.13 term vs 0.03 preterm).

Conclusions Those born prematurely with an AGA achieve a comparable adult height to children born at term, however, catch-up growth continues for much longer than traditionally thought.

  • Growth
  • Premature

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  • Contributors ECF analysed the data and wrote the article. NPW advised on data analysis and writing of the article. ATG set up the study, recruited participants and reviewed the manuscript. SC and AW collated the data and reviewed the manuscript. JKW was involved with setting up the study, securing funding and reviewing the manuscript. All authors approved the manuscript prior to submission.

  • Funding This work was supported by Serono Pharmaceuticals Ltd, and The Children's Hospital Charity (Sheffield Children's Hospital).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval South Sheffield Medical Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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