About 28,000, or 4.4 percent, of those surveyed were born prematurely. Nearly two-thirds of that group were born close to term, at 35 to 36 weeks' gestation.
In the United States, about 13 percent of births are preterm, Crump noted, which "could possibly be due" to maternal risk factors that include infections, other illnesses, high blood pressure, diabetes and excess weight.
Among the adults in the study, 922 were admitted to a hospital during the four-year study period. But 4,405 had been admitted at some earlier point during their lives for treatment of the condition.
The data were adjusted for factors that could affect the outcomes, such as gender, mother's marital status, parental epilepsy and the presence of other illnesses.
An "unexpected" finding, Crump said, was that babies born after more than 43 weeks' gestation received drug prescriptions for epilepsy as adults, suggesting that they also could be at risk. This finding needs "confirmation in other populations," he said.
Preterm infants in the study were more likely to be male, have a twin sibling, be late in the birth order and come from low-income parents with limited education. Their mothers were more likely to be younger than 20 years old, or older than 35. But analyses done after adjusting for these factors showed the same results, the study noted.
The study drew praise from another expert for tracking a large number of infants, or cohort, into adulthood.
"I'm very confident in the results of this study. It is a one of a kind. We don't have many of these kinds of studies here," said Dr. Satyanarayana Gedela, a pediatric neurologist specializing in childhood epilepsy at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Other studies have suggested a relationship between premature birth and epilepsy in a
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