IMPORTANCE Cranial ultrasound (CUS) findings are routinely used to identify preterm infants at risk for impaired neurodevelopment, and neurobehavioral examinations provide information about early brain function. The associations of abnormal findings on early and late CUS with neurobehavior at neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) discharge have not been reported. OBJECTIVE To examine the associations between early and late CUS findings and infant neurobehavior at NICU discharge.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This prospective cohort study included infants enrolled in the Neonatal Neurobehavior and Outcomes in Very Preterm Infants Study between April 2014 and June 2016. Infants born before 30 weeks’ gestational age were included. Exclusion criteria were maternal age younger than 18 years, maternal cognitive impairment, maternal inability to read or speak English or Spanish, maternal death, and major congenital anomalies. Overall, 704 infants were enrolled. The study was conducted at 9 university-affiliated NICUs in Providence, Rhode Island; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kansas City, Missouri; Honolulu, Hawaii; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Torrance and Long Beach, California. Datawere analyzed from September 2019 to September 2021. EXPOSURES Early CUS was performed at 3 to 14 days after birth and late CUS at 36 weeks’ postmenstrual age or NICU discharge. Abnormal findings were identified by consensus of standardized radiologists’ readings.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Neurobehavioral examination was performed using the NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale (NNNS).
RESULTS Among the 704 infants enrolled, 675 had both CUS and NNNS data (135 [20.0%] Black; 368 [54.5%] minority race or ethnicity; 339 [50.2%] White; 376 [55.7%] male; mean [SD] postmenstrual age, 27.0 [1.9] weeks). After covariate adjustment, lower attention (adjusted mean difference, −0.346; 95%CI, −0.609 to −0.083), hypotonicity (mean difference, 0.358; 95%CI, 0.055 to 0.662), and poorer quality ofmovement (mean difference, −0.344; 95%CI, −0.572 to −0.116) were observed in infants with white matter damage (WMD). Lower attention (mean difference, −0.233; 95%CI, −0.423 to −0.044) and hypotonicity (mean difference, 0.240; 95%CI, 0.014 to 0.465) were observed in infants with early CUS lesions.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE In this cohort study of preterm infants, certain early CUS lesions were associated with hypotonicity and lower attention around term-equivalent age. WMD was associated with poor attention, hypotonicity, and poor quality ofmovement. Infants with these CUS lesions might benefit from targeted interventions to improve neurobehavioral outcomes during their NICU hospitalization.