Advances in technology and medical care have dramatically improved survival for infants born prior to 30 weeks gestation and weighing less than three pounds. However, up to 50 percent of these infants may develop physical, cognitive, language and/or behavioral impairments that require extensive health care, educational and psychosocial community resources through adulthood. At this time, there is no reliable method to identify those infants who will go on to develop impairments and those who will not.
Women & Infants Hospital has earned a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to determine the efficacy of a neurobehavioral exam that may help to identify which infants are at greatest risk for developmental impairment. Barry M. Lester, PhD, director of the Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, is the principal investigator. Co-principal investigator is T. Michael O'Shea, MD, of Wake Forest University.
Dr. Lester and Edward Tronick, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, have developed a neurobehavioral exam called the NNNS, or the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) Network Neurobehavioral Scale. This exam provides a comprehensive assessment that profiles infant neurobehavior along dimensions that researchers believe will enable them to help identify which infants are at greatest risk for developmental impairment.
"The ability to identify which infants will or will not be developmentally impaired is the 'holy grail' that would usher in a new era of preventive intervention and improve the long term outcome of these fragile babies," said Dr. Lester.
When infants are discharged from the NICU, many who have medical problems become developmentally impaired, while others do not. Likewise, some infants without medical problem
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Women & Infants Hospital