The “synactive” theory of neurobehavioral development forms the basis of the Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP). Our objective was to assess the effectiveness of NIDCAP in improving outcomes in preterm infants.


Medline, CINAHL, Embase, PsychInfo, The Cochrane Library, Pediatric Academic Societies’ Abstracts and Web of Science were searched in July 2010 and February 2012. The studies selected were randomized controlled trials testing the effectiveness of NIDCAP on medical and neurodevelopmental outcomes. The authors abstracted baseline characteristics of infants and outcomes. The risk of bias was assessed by using Cochrane criteria. RevMan 5.1 was used to synthesize data by the use of relative risk and risk difference for dichotomous outcomes and mean or standardized mean difference for continuous outcomes.


Eleven primary and 7 secondary studies enrolling 627 neonates were included, with 2 of high quality. The composite primary outcomes of death or major sensorineural disability at 18 months corrected age or later in childhood (3 trials, 302 children; relative risk 0.89 [95% confidence interval 0.61 to 1.29]) and survival free of disability at 18 months corrected age or later in childhood (2 trials, 192 infants; relative risk 0.97 [95% confidence interval 0.69 to 1.35]), were not significantly different between the NIDCAP and control groups. With the sensitivity analysis that excluded the 2 statistically heterogeneous outlying studies, there were no significant differences between groups for short-term medical outcomes.


This systematic review including 627 preterm infants did not find any evidence that NIDCAP improves long-term neurodevelopmental or short-term medical outcomes.

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