Objective. To measure the primary and secondary school-age neurologic, cognitive, and educational outcomes in a cohort of extremely premature infants born after the introduction of exogenous surfactant therapy in a circumscribed region.
Methods. Two hundred thirteen infants born at <29 weeks’ gestation were cared for at a regional referral center during 1985–1987. At primary school age, neurologic and cognitive outcomes, educational achievement, school placement, health status, and socioeconomic status were determined by follow-up visit. At secondary school age, school placement and health status were evaluated by telephone interview.
Results. One hundred thirty-two infants survived to school age, of whom 127 (96%) were evaluated in 1992–1995 and 126 (95%) were evaluated in 2000. Mean ages were 7.0 years at first follow-up and 14.1 years at second follow-up. At primary-school age follow-up, 19 children (15%) had cerebral palsy, 24 (19%) had a general cognitive index <70, and 41 (32%) were placed in a self-contained, special classroom. Thirty-nine children (31%) had no physical or educational impairment, whereas 27 (21%) had at least 1 severe disability. At secondary school age, cerebral palsy incidence remained unchanged, whereas 36 children (29%) were placed in a special classroom. Fifty-one children (41%) had no physical or educational impairment, whereas 24 (19%) had at least 1 severe disability. Neonatal intraventricular hemorrhage and low socioeconomic status were the strongest predictors of adverse outcomes.
Conclusions. Premature infants born in the surfactant era remain at high risk of neurodevelopmental compromise. Although many of these children do well, a significant minority will require intensive special educational services through secondary school age.