Objective To determine the trajectory of cognitive test scores from infancy to adulthood in individuals born extremely preterm compared with term-born individuals.
Design A prospective, population-based cohort study.
Setting 276 maternity units in the UK and Ireland.
Patients 315 surviving infants born less than 26 completed weeks of gestation recruited at birth in 1995 and 160 term-born classroom controls recruited at age 6.
Main outcome measures Bayley Scales of Infant Development-Second Edition (age 2.5); Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (ages 6/11); Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence-Second Edition (age 19).
Results The mean cognitive scores of extremely preterm individuals over the period were on average 25.2 points below their term-born peers (95% CI −27.8 to −22.6) and remained significantly lower at every assessment. Cognitive trajectories in term-born boys and girls did not differ significantly, but the scores of extremely preterm boys were on average 8.8 points below those of extremely preterm girls (95% CI −13.6 to −4.0). Higher maternal education elevated scores in both groups by 3.2 points (95% CI 0.8 to 5.7). Within the extremely preterm group, moderate/severe neonatal brain injury (mean difference: −10.9, 95% CI −15.5 to −6.3) and gestational age less than 25 weeks (mean difference: −4.4, 95% CI −8.4 to −0.4) also had an adverse impact on cognitive function.
Conclusions There is no evidence that impaired cognitive function in extremely preterm individuals materially recovers or deteriorates from infancy through to 19 years. Cognitive test scores in infancy and early childhood reflect early adult outcomes.
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