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Long-term complications of the preterm infant

George T Mandy, MD
Section Editor
Leonard E Weisman, MD
Deputy Editor
Melanie S Kim, MD


Prematurity is defined as a birth that occurs before 37 completed weeks (less than 259 days) of gestation. It is associated with about one-third of all infant deaths in the United States and accounts for approximately 45 percent of children with cerebral palsy (CP), 35 percent of children with vision impairment, and 25 percent of children with cognitive or hearing impairment.

Complications of prematurity are the underlying reasons for the higher rate of infant mortality and morbidity in preterm infants compared with full-term infants. The risk of complications increases with increasing immaturity. Thus, infants who are extremely preterm (EPT), born at or before 25 weeks gestation, have the highest mortality rate (about 50 percent) and if they survive, are at the greatest risk for long-term morbidity.

In preterm survivors, there is a high rate of long-term neurodevelopment impairment (NDI) and chronic health problems. These chronic medical and neurodevelopmental complications often require additional healthcare and educational services, which add to the overall economic cost of caring for the preterm infant.

The long-term complications of prematurity and the long-term healthcare needs of preterm survivors will be reviewed here. The short-term complications of the preterm infant are discussed separately. (See "Short-term complications of the preterm infant".)


Different degrees of prematurity are defined by gestational age (GA) or birth weight (BW).

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Feb 22, 2017.
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