Very Low Birth Weight Infants in Germany: How many Therapies Do They Get until Preschool Age?
Aims: Very low birth weight infants (birth weight < 1,500 g; VLBW) have an increased risk for developmental delays. There are few data whether and which kind of therapy these VLBW infants receive during the infancy.
Methods: As part of a multicenter study in Germany (German Neonatal Network, starting 2009), VLBW infants are followed up at 5 years of age. Parents were asked about therapies their children received after initial discharge from hospital (physical, occupational, speech therapy, and early intervention programs). A total of 158 children participated until December 15, 2014.
Results: Gestational age of former VLBW infants was (median, Q1–Q3: 29.0 [26.7–31.1] weeks; birth weight, 1,140 g [810—1,380 g]). Overall, 6% suffered from a cerebral palsy; “gross motor function scale” was completely normal in 67% for gross motor and in 73% for fine motor functions. Overall, 66% received physical therapy, 34% occupational therapy, 39% speech therapy, and 36% participated in early intervention programs. Overall, 81% of the parents regarded physical therapy as helpful for their child's development, 70% occupational therapy, 75% speech therapy, and 84% early intervention programs. Most children received therapies during their first year of life, frequency of therapies reclined until the third year of life to increase again until their fifth birthday.
Conclusion: Former VLBW infants received many therapies during their first years of life. Evidence for the benefit of early intervention program exists in the literature, evidence for the other therapies are lacking. Most parents regard early intervention programs as helpful for their children's development.
Keywords: VLBW, early intervention, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy.