A study has said that with significant advances in the neonatal intensive care, there has been a 3 times increase in the survival rates of children who are born at less than 26 weeks of gestation.
However, improved survival rates have been accompanied by a higher risk for later cognitive, neuromotor, and sensory impairments in these children.
An 11-year follow-up study of 219 extremely preterm children by Johnson and colleagues sought to determine the prevalence and risk factors for psychiatric disorders in this population.
The researchers discovered that almost one quarter of extremely preterm children had a psychiatric disorder at 11 years of age.
The most frequent psychiatric conditions were Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (12pct), emotional disorders (9pct), and Autism Spectrum Disorders (8pct).
The investigation also reports a threefold overall greater risk of subsequent mental health problems in those children born prematurely.
This is the first study to systematically investigate the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in a contemporary population of extremely preterm survivors.
The data were collected as part of the EPICure Study, which followed up extremely preterm children born in the United Kingdom and Ireland at 1 year, 2.5 years, 6-8 years, and 10-11 years.
The EPICure study was aimed at determining the chances of survival and subsequent health of survivors.
"Clinically, the findings suggest that much greater emphasis should be placed on early cognitive and psychological monitoring of extremely preterm children for emerging neuropsychiatric and emotional disorders. Routine cognitive and behavioral screening throughout the preschool period may help to facilitate early psychiatric referral and therefore be beneficial for extremely preterm children and their families," said the researchers.
The findings of the study are published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.