This study investigated whether in preterm children who had ventricular dilatation (VD) on neonatal cranial ultrasound outcome at age 8 years was influenced by the additional presence of germinal matrix haemorrhage – intraventricular haemorrhage (GMH–IVH). Six-hundred and ninety-nine preterm infants (<33wks' gestation, mean 29.6wks [SD 2.1]) with either normal cranial ultrasound (n=616; 286 females, 330 males), or with VD with (n=66; 32 females, 34 males) or without (n=17; 4 females, 13 males) GMH–IVH were enrolled in the study. At age 8 years outcome was assessed in 567 (81%) of the 699 children by neurological examination, the Test of Motor Impairment (TOMI), the test of Visuo-Motor Integration (VMI), and the Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children. Results showed that the proportion of children with disabling impairments was higher in the group with VD and GMH–IVH. Performance on TOMI and VMI (even in those without disabling impairments) was poorer in those with VD and GMH–IVH than in children with normal scans or those with VD only. Children with VD and GMH–IVH had significantly lower performance IQ than children with normal ultrasound, whereas those with VD only were not different from those with normal scans. Results suggest the presence of subtle white matter injury that has not been identified by neonatal cranial ultrasound. Although this study did not investigate biochemical markers of haemorrhage, we hypothesize that non-protein-bound iron is likely to be a contributing factor to white matter damage in preterm infants.
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