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Growth management in preterm infants

Ian J Griffin, MB ChB
Section Editors
Steven A Abrams, MD
Kathleen J Motil, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Melanie S Kim, MD


Growth impairment during early infancy, a period of substantial cellular hyperplasia and hypertrophy, can have permanent detrimental effects. Abnormalities in growth during this time period may persist into adulthood, especially in patients who were preterm infants. This was illustrated in a report of very low birth weight (VLBW, <1500 g) infants who were twice as likely to have a height less than the third percentile at 20 years of age than that of normal birth weight (BW) controls (10 versus 5 percent) [1].

Preterm infants are at risk for poor growth while in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and after discharge from the NICU. They must be closely monitored and may require interventions to promote better growth.

Growth in the preterm infant, including monitoring of growth and managing growth impairment while in the NICU and after discharge, will be discussed here. Enteral and parenteral nutrition for preterm infants are discussed separately. (See "Approach to enteral nutrition in the premature infant" and "Parenteral nutrition in premature infants".)


Normative growth data are available for healthy term infants. However, data are limited for preterm infants during both hospitalization and after discharge. (See "Normal growth patterns in infants and prepubertal children", section on 'Evaluation of growth'.)

Term infants — Normative data are available for intrauterine growth in the last trimester and during infancy [2,3]:


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Literature review current through: Dec 2016. | This topic last updated: Mon Jan 16 00:00:00 GMT+00:00 2017.
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