The effect of gestational age on major neurodevelopmental disorders in preterm infants

Mads L Larsen, Rikke Wiingreen, Andreas Jensen, Gija Rackauskaite, Bjarne Laursen, Bo M Hansen, Christina E Hoei-Hansen, Gorm Greisen

4 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Preterm infants have an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders. We established a direct quantitative comparison of the association between the degree of prematurity and three different neurodevelopmental disorders.

METHODS: In this cohort study, we combined data from 995,498 children in the Danish Medical Birth Register, from birth years 1997-2013, with information on cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and special educational needs. We estimated the gestational week-specific prevalence and risk for each of the disorders.

RESULTS: The risk ratio of cerebral palsy at gestational weeks 21-24, compared to term birth, was more than ten times higher than for the two other disorders. The prevalence of epilepsy and special educational needs declined almost parallel, with 9.2% (4.6%-13.5%) and 12.5% (11.2%-13.7%), respectively, per week of gestation toward term birth. Cerebral palsy did not decline similarly: from gestational weeks 21-24 until week 29 the prevalence declined insignificantly by 0.6% (-11.1%-11.0%) per week; whereas from week 29 until term, the prevalence declined markedly by 36.7% (25.9%-45.9%) per week.

CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence and risk of cerebral palsy are affected differently by the degree of prematurity compared with epilepsy and special educational needs, possibly reflecting important differences in cerebral pathophysiology.

IMPACT: For each week of gestation toward term birth, there was a clear log-linear decline in the prevalence of early childhood epilepsy and special educational needs. In contrast, the risk of cerebral palsy was high at the earliest gestational age, and the prevalence did not decline significantly until gestational week 29, from where it declined notably by nearly 40% for each week of gestation until term birth. Our results indicate important differences in the pathophysiological processes that associate preterm birth with these three neurodevelopmental disorders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1906-1912
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Cerebral Palsy/epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Epilepsy/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases/epidemiology
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders/epidemiology
  • Premature Birth/epidemiology


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