AIM The aim of this study was to assess the motor repertoire of extremely low-birthweight infants at term-equivalent age (TEA), in relation to their neurological outcome.
METHOD Using Prechtl's method, we assessed both the quality of general movements and a detailed motor optimality score in 13 extremely low-birthweight infants (four males; nine females; mean gestational age 27.9wks, SD 2.9wks; mean birthweight 798g, SD 129g) at TEA, and related them to general movements at the age of 3 months after term and neurological outcome at the age of 2 years 6 months.
RESULTS At TEA, 10 of the 13 infants had abnormal general movements. All infants showed abnormal leg lifting with extended legs; nine showed stiff movements, three showed cramped movements, and two showed cramped synchronized general movements. At 3 months, three infants still had abnormal general movements. Concurrent movements were abnormal in nine infants owing to monotony and jerkiness. Abnormal posture was seen in seven infants. None developed cerebral palsy; one infant showed cognitive and motor delay. Neurological outcome was not related to general movement quality and optimality score at TEA.
INTERPRETATION Abnormal general movements at TEA are common in extremely low-birthweight infants. General movements often appear stiff and cramped with extended legs. At the age of 3 months after term, general movements are mostly normal, but concurrent movements are not. Nevertheless, these abnormalities do not imply an impaired neurological outcome such as cerebral palsy.