Autism spectrum disorder in a term birth neonatal intensive care unit population
Non-specific perinatal risk factors have been shown to be associated with the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, term at-risk infants, as a distinct population, are underrepresented in the literature. This study examines the incidence and neonatal risk factors for ASD in term neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) survivors.
Retrospective analysis from a single university-practice database of neonates admitted to the NICU and followed by a single paediatric neurologist. Term infants (≥ 37 weeks), born between 1991 and 2011 with at least two years (or one year if found to be neurologically normal) of follow-up were included. Principle outcomes were: ASD, cerebral palsy (CP), global developmental delay (GDD), and epilepsy.
180 infants were included from a database of 564 neonates.
Twelve (6.6%) developed ASD,
53 (29.4%) CP, 77 (42.7%) GDD and
47 (26.1%) epilepsy.
Seventy-one (39.4%) developed no adverse outcomes.
Nine patients with ASD (75%) were diagnosed with at least one other adverse outcome.
No neonatal or perinatal variables were found to be significantly associated with later ASD.
In term NICU survivors, ASD occurs with a greater frequency than in the general population and often develops alongside comorbid conditions. This highlights the importance of screening term NICU survivors for ASD, particularly when comorbidities are present.