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Reliable diagrams for monitoring growth of preterm babies developed

03 July 2012

The University Medical Center Groningen and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) have developed growth diagrams that will give parents and doctors a reliable guideline for monitoring the growth of preterm babies. The new diagrams show the optimum growth curve for the baby depending on the gestation period, and include separate diagrams for preterm girls and preterm boys. They can be used for the early detection of deviations in growth of babies belonging to this vulnerable group. The growth diagrams were devised as part of the Lollipop study being carried out by the UMCG. Researchers from the Paediatrics and Social Medicine Departments of the UMCG and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research are publishing an article on the subject in the scientific magazine Journal of Pediatrics. The new growth diagrams constitute an important contribution to the care for preterm babies and form the basis of a thesis being written by Inger Bocca-Tjeertes.

In the absence of reliable growth diagrams for preterm babies throughout the world, various ‘tricks’ are used to monitor their growth. Examples include using a diagram for ‘full-term’ babies and applying an age correction, or a diagram based on birth weight. Neither option gives a true picture of these babies’ growth development. Growth is an important criterion for determining the health of a child. Insufficient growth can be an indication of illness or a feeding problem, whereas excessive weight gain can lead to serious complications, in both the short and long term. Preterm babies have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in later life. This risk becomes even higher if they grow too fast. Now that the survival rate for preterm babies has improved, it has become important to examine the implications for later life. Better growth diagrams are an essential aspect of this monitoring process.

The Lollipop study was set up to devise diagrams to help both paediatricians and parents. Together with the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, UMCG has now managed to devise reliable diagrams based on longitudinal measurements. Age corrections are no longer necessary and growth that deviates from normal growth for the given gestation period can be easily identified.

These diagrams have been long awaited as they will greatly improve the care that can be offered to this group of babies and children. The Netherlands Association for Parents of Incubator Babies [Vereniging van Ouders van Couveusekinderen] has advised parents to use the diagrams to monitor the growth of their children themselves. The possibility of including the diagrams in the national care guidelines for preterm babies and children is currently being investigated.

The Lollipop study looks into the growth and development of preterm babies. The research in UMCG is being carried out at the Beatrix Children’s Hospital and the Department of Health Sciences/Social Medicine.

Note for the press

For more information, please contact the UMCG press information officers on telephone number +31 (0)50 361 22 00.

Last modified:13 March 2020 01.48 a.m.
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