The Association between Growth and Neurodevelopment in Very Preterm Infants – A Follow-up Study in the PIPARI Study

(abstract of the doctoral dissertation)

link to the doctoral dissertation


Placental insufficiency is one major cause of intrauterine growth restriction and also relates to neurodevelopment. Preterm infants with very low birth weight are at risk of postnatal growth restriction as well as neurodevelopmental impairments. However, the optimal postnatal growth for long-term neurodevelopment is still unclear.


The objective of this study was thus to investigate the association between growth and neurodevelopment in very preterm infants. The study populations consisted of 83 (I), 55 (II), 36 (III) and 181 (IV) infants with very low birth weight (below 1501 grams), and very or extremely low gestational age (below 32 and 26 weeks). Foetal blood circulation in relation to two-year neurodevelopment and the association between early growth and brain maturation at term age were studied. Postnatal growth, and its association with five-year cognitive outcome, was analysed.


Changes in foetal blood circulation related to placental insufficiency associated with an adverse two-year cognitive outcome. Early postnatal growth in extremely preterm infants was comparable to a similar Swedish cohort. Preterm infants with slow intrauterine growth had less mature brains at term age; rapid catch-up growth until term age did not eliminate this difference. Weight gain and head circumference growth from birth until two years of age associated positively with five-year cognitive outcome in appropriate for gestational age infants. In small for gestational age infants, head circumference growth from term age to four months (corrected age) associated positively with their five-year cognitive outcome.

The association between postnatal growth and neurodevelopment was different for prenatally normally grown versus slow grown preterm infants.