Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Adverse neurodevelopmental outcome of moderate neonatal hypoglycaemia.

British Medical Journal 1988; 297 doi: (Published 19 November 1988) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1988;297:1304
  1. A. Lucas,
  2. R. Morley,
  3. T. J. Cole
  1. Medical Research Council, Dunn Nutrition Unit, Cambridge.


    There has been considerable debate over whether asymptomatic neonatal hypoglycaemia results in neurological damage. In a detailed multicentre study of 661 preterm infants hypoglycaemia was found to be common. Moderate hypoglycaemia (plasma glucose concentration less than 2.6 mmol/l) occurred in 433 of the infants and in 104 was found on three to 30 separate days. There was considerable variation among the centres, implying differences in decisions to intervene. The number of days on which moderate hypoglycaemia occurred was strongly related to reduced mental and motor development scores at 18 months (corrected age), even after adjustment for a wide range of factors known to influence development. When hypoglycaemia was recorded on five or more separate days adjusted mental and motor developmental scores at 18 months (corrected age) were significantly reduced by 14 and 13 points respectively, and the incidence of neurodevelopmental impairment (cerebral palsy or developmental delay) was increased by a factor of 3.5 (95% confidence interval 1.3 to 9.4). These data suggest that, contrary to general belief, moderate hypoglycaemia may have serious neurodevelopmental consequences, and reappraisal of current management is urgently required.