The foot length, occipito-frontal head circumference (OFC), crown-rump, and crown-heel length (CHL) of 123 neonates of gestational ages 26-42 weeks, were measured between 12 hours and 5 days. A gauge, designed and constructed at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester, was used to measure foot length. In term babies (37-42 weeks) who were of weights appropriate for gestational age (AGA) the scatter about the mean of foot length measurements was small (coefficient of variation = 4.5%) compared with birthweight (coefficient of variation = 12.0%). The wide range of foot length measurements in babies of different gestational ages prevented maturity being accurately estimated. The mean birthweight of term light-for-dates (LFD) babies was 30.9% lower than term AGA babies, whereas the mean foot length, OFC, and body length of LFD babies was reduced by only 4.2-8.8%. There was a positive linear correlation between foot length and other indices of body size in LFD and AGA babies of all gestational ages. However, in premature babies (less than 37 weeks) the correlation between foot length and birthweight (r = 0.95) and foot length and CHL (r = 0.96) was pronounced. The 95% confidence limits of the regression lines were +/- 327 g and +/- 2.3 cm respectively. Birthweight and CHL of premature babies can therefore be estimated from a measurement of foot length that is performed simply and rapidly. Measurements of foot length are valuable in premature babies who are too ill at birth for conventional anthropometric measurements to be made, and in whom such measurements cannot be carried out subsequently because of the encumbrance of the incubator and intensive care apparatus. Drug dosages and intravenous fluid requirements based on body weight or surface area can be indirectly calculated from a measurement of foot length.
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