Problems persist into childhood for very premature babies

Children born extremely prematurely run a high risk of
disability, with only one in five having no problems at age 6,
according to the latest results of a long term study.

The EPICure study has followed a group of babies born in the UK
in 1995 at 25 weeks gestation or fewer, and assessed them at age
2½ and six.

When the children were age 2½ the assessment found that
half had no disabilities, one in four had severe disability and one
in four had mild or moderate disability.

When they were six very detailed medical and psychological
testing took place, comparing 241 of the children with 160
classmates who were born at full term.

Only 20 per cent had no problems. 22 per cent had severe
disability, 24 per cent had moderate disability and 34 per cent had
milder problems such as poor eyesight or below average cognitive

The study also showed the boys had a greater risk of severe
disability than girls, and lower scores generally for cognitive

Bliss, the charity for premature babies, was a major funder of
the study. Its chief executive Rob Williams said, “The
results will give parents some guidance as to the possible outcome
for this small group of babies. They may well affect difficult
decisions that have to be made about continuing treatment.

“However babies born at this early gestation age represent
a very small proportion of the 40,000 babies born

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