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Jaundice carries increased risk of developmental disorders in preterm infants

02 Mar 2020

Preterm infants with jaundice appear be predisposed to an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and non-ASD developmental disorder (DD), a study has found.

The study obtained data from the Study to Explore Early Development and included children aged 2–5 years: 636 with ASD, 777 with DD and 926 healthy controls. Compared with controls, children with ASD or DD were more likely to be male and have earlier gestational age, as well as have older and less educated mothers.

Overall, 1,054 infants had neonatal jaundice. More infants in this group than the no-jaundice group had older mothers, mothers with diabetes in pregnancy, and earlier gestational age.

In multivariable regression models, there was a significant interaction between gestational age and neonatal jaundice, such that the latter was associated with greater risks of ASD and DD only among children born preterm.

The corresponding adjusted odds ratios (aORs) associated with neonatal jaundice in children born 35–37 weeks of gestation were 3.34 (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.99–5.61) for DD and 1.84 (95 percent CI, 1.06–3.20) for ASD.

Among babies born ≥38 weeks of gestation, jaundice was associated with neither ASD (aOR, 0.97, 95 percent CI, 0.76–1.24) nor DD (aOR, 1.07, 95 percent CI, 0.85–1.34).

The present data support results from previous studies suggesting that preterm infants with jaundice may be at greater risk of adverse outcomes when compared with term infants, according to researchers. Children with jaundice or other early risk factors associated with ASD and DD should be monitored to facilitate earlier diagnosis and treatment.

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