Open Access Research article

Catch-up growth up to ten years of age in children born very preterm or with very low birth weight

Noël BB Knops1, Kommer CA Sneeuw2, Ronald Brand3, Elysee TM Hille2, A Lya den Ouden2, Jan-Maarten Wit1* and S Pauline Verloove-Vanhorick12

  • * Corresponding author: Jan-Maarten Wit

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Paediatrics; Leiden University Medical Center, J6S; P.O. Box 2600; 2300 RC Leiden; The Netherlands

2 TNO Prevention and Health, Child Health Division, Leiden; The Netherlands

3 Department of Medical Statistics, Leiden University Medical Center; The Netherlands

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BMC Pediatrics 2005, 5:26  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-5-26

Published: 20 July 2005



Improved survival due to advances in neonatal care has brought issues such as postnatal growth and development more to the focus of our attention. Most studies report stunting in children born very preterm and/or small for gestational age. In this article we study the growth pattern of these children and aim to identify factors associated with postnatal catch-up growth.


1338 children born with a gestational age <32 weeks and/or a birth weight of <1500 grams were followed during a Dutch nationwide prospective study (POPS). Subgroups were classified as appropriate for gestational age and <32 weeks (AGA) or small for gestational age (<32 wks SGA and ≥32 wks SGA). Data were collected at different intervals from birth until 10 years for the 962 survivors and compared to reference values. The correlation between several factors and growth was analysed.


At 10 years the AGA children had attained normal height, whereas the SGA group demonstrated stunting, even after correction for target height (AGA: 0.0 SDS; SGA <32 wks: -0.29SDS and ≥32 wks: -0.13SDS). Catch-up growth was especially seen in the SGA children with a fast initial weight gain. BMI was approximately 1 SD below the population reference mean.


At 10 years of age, children born very preterm AGA show no stunting. However, many children born SGA, especially the very preterm, show persistent stunting. Early weight gain seems an important prognostic factor in predicting childhood growth.