One hundred and twenty six preterm infants, with a gestational age of 34 weeks or less, were studied to compare the predictive value of somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) with that of cranial ultrasound. A normal N1 latency was no guarantee of a normal outcome, nor did a persistently delayed N1 latency always correlate with a poor outcome. As a predictor of cerebral palsy, SEPs had a sensitivity of 44% and a specificity of 92%. The presence of a large haemorrhage (grade IIb/III) or cystic leukomalacia on cranial ultrasound predicted cerebral palsy with a sensitivity of 73.6% and a specificity of 83.1%. These results demonstrate that the role of SEPs recorded after median nerve stimulation is limited in preterm infants.
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