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Prevalence of cerebral palsy falls among infants with low birth weight

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 11 January 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:67

During the 16 years between 1980 and 1996, the number of babies at risk of cerebral palsy increased greatly because of a rise in multiple births, increased numbers of babies born with very low birth weight, and improved survival in the neonatal period. Despite these trends, however, the incidence of cerebral palsy among infants with a low birth weight has gone down, according to surveillance data from nine European countries.

In infants born at less than 1500 g, the prevalence of cerebral palsy was 60.6 per 1000 live births in 1980 but this fell to 39.5 per 1000 in 1996 (P<0.0004). Most of the decrease was explained by fewer cases of bilateral cerebral palsy in infants who weighed between 1000 g and 1499 g at birth. The prevalence of other types of cerebral palsy remained steady during the study, as did the overall prevalence among infants weighing less than 1000 g. Analysis of prevalence by gestational age produced similar results, with a significant fall in the prevalence of cerebral palsy confined to infants born between 28 and 31 weeks. As expected, neonatal mortality fell during the same period—from 50% to 35% in the smallest infants, and from 20% to 5% in those weighing between 1000 g and 1499 g.


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