Atypical sensory processing is common in extremely low gestational age children

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Abstract

Aim:

Atypical sensory processing is common in children born extremely prematurely. We investigated sensory processing abilities in extremely low gestational age (ELGA) children and analysed associated neonatal risk factors, neuroanatomical findings and neurodevelopmental outcome.

Methods:

We carried out a prospective study of 44 ELGA children, including 42 who had undergone brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at term-equivalent age, when they were 2 years of corrected age. Their sensory processing abilities were assessed with the Infant/Toddler Sensory Profile questionnaire and their neurodevelopmental with a structured Hempel neurological examination, Griffiths Mental Developmental Scales and Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development Third Edition.

Results:

Sensory profiles were definitely or probably atypical (<−1 SD) in half of the ELGA children, and the most common behavioural pattern was low registration (23%). Sensation seeking was associated with abnormalities in grey and/or white matter in the brain MRI (p < 0.01). Atypical oral sensory processing was associated with surgical closure of the patent ductus arteriosus (p = 0.02, adjusted p < 0.01).

Conclusion:

Atypical sensory processing in ELGA children was common, and children with neonatal neuroanatomical lesions tended to present specific behavioural responses to sensory stimuli. Surgical closure of the patent ductus arteriosus may predispose infants to feeding problems due to atypical oral sensory processing.

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