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1. Ph.D.; Maternidade Odete Valadares/Fundação Hospitalar de Minas
Gerais (MOV/FHEMIG) and Hospital das Clínicas, Universidade Federal
de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.
2. Ph.D.; Associate professor, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
(UFMG), Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.
3. Associate professor, Department of Statistics, Institute of Exact Scien-
ces, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Belo Horizonte, MG,
Manuscript received Jan 26 2004, accepted for publication May 26 2004.
Objective: To assess the somatic growth of preterm newborns through growth curves during the first 12 weeks
of life.
Method: A longitudinal and prospective study was carried out at two state operated maternity hospitals in the
city of Belo Horizonte. Three hundred and forty preterm infants with birth weight less than 2,500 g were weekly
evaluated in terms of body weight, head circumference, and height. Growth curves were constructed and adjusted
to Counts model.
Results: Counts model clearly showed that the dynamics of loss, stabilization and gain of weight of all curves
are graphically similar. The growth curve was characterized by weight loss during the 1st week (4-6 days) ranging
from 5.9 to 9.7% (the greater the percentage, the lower the birth weight). For all curves, recovery of birth weight
ranged from 16 to19 days, showing that these newborns took longer to recover their birth weight. After the 3rd
week, the newborns maintained increasingly rates of weight gain. Head circumference and height curves are little
affected by weight loss. However, newborns with low birth weight presented loss of head circumference and height,
probably due to their lower gestational ages.
Conclusion: The dynamics of the preterm infants evaluated was similar to that of previous studies. The infants
also presented growth deficit. However, it was also noted that the infants present a high potential to recover their
J Pediatr (Rio J). 2004;80(4):267-76: Premature, growth curves, somatic growth.
Growth of preterm newborns
during the first 12 weeks of life
Lêni M. Anchieta,
César C. Xavier,
Enrico A. Colosimo
Jornal de Pediatria
Copyright © 2004 by Sociedade Brasileira de Pediatria
Growth monitoring in Pediatrics is widely used, especially
by primary care professionals, who acknowledge the
importance of using it as a routine practice and a criterion
to assess good state of health. However, this practice is
only applied at outpatient clinics, being totally neglected
during hospital stay, which may sometimes be quite long.
This aspect is particularly important in the case of preterm
newborns, who, depending on the gestational age, need a
long-term stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. Quite
often, the daily weight measurements made in these units
are used to adjust fluid and nutritional requirements of
newborns, but they are seldom interpreted based on different
gestational ages, different birthweights, different clinical
problems, and different corrected gestational ages. The use
of growth curves for monitoring growth should also be a
routine practice in neonatal units, considering that postnatal
growth deficit in preterm newborns is still a serious
Moreover, this assessment is desirable and
necessary for the proper monitoring of children at primary
care outpatient clinics.
However, assessing and interpreting the growth of
preterm newborns is not an easy task, as there are
several factors involved, such as nutrition, maturity,
nutritional status at birth and clinical outcome.
Therefore, it may be difficult to determine what the
adequate growth should be for these children, and we are
possibly far from defining or reaching a growth pattern or
reference. In 1948, Dancis et al.
developed weight
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