Recent findings published in PLoS Medicine showed that the two leading causes of death for adolescents in England and Wales with very low birth weight were central nervous system and respiratory system conditions.
In addition, the researchers also found that cancers (20%) and accidents (20%) were the two leading causes of death for adolescents born with low birth weight.
“We have shown that very low birth weight and low birth weight are associated with mortality in infancy and in childhood/adolescence,” Sailesh Kotecha, PhD, department head of child health, Cardiff University School of Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “Major causes of death include perinatal and congenital malformations in infancy, which continue to explain many deaths that occur up to 18 years of age.”
While low birth weight newborns have a higher rate of death during the perinatal period and in infancy, it is not clear whether this higher rate continues in adolescence, the researchers wrote. As a result, the researchers used what they believed to be the largest and most recent cohort to determine an all-cause mortality association as well as to identify the leading causes of death for different birth weight groups up to age 18 years.
The researchers performed a study of 12,355,251 live births in England and Wales from 1993 to 2011. Very low birth weight (VLBW) was classified as 500 grams to 1,499 grams, and low birth weight (LBW) was considered 1,500 to 2,499 grams.
LBW was associated with later child and adolescent mortality. Kotecha and colleagues found that 0.61% of participants died between birth and age 18 years, with 23% occurring after infancy. During infancy, perinatal factors, primarily infections and respiratory concerns, were the leading cause of death in the VLBW (84%) and LBW (31%) groups. Also during this time, the researchers identified congenital malformations as the second leading cause of death among VLBW (36%) and LBW (23%) individuals. During childhood and adolescence, nervous system (20%) and respiratory system (16%) conditions were cited as the top causes of death in the VLBW group; cancers (20%) and accidents (20%) were the No. 1 causes of mortality among the LBW group.
“By understanding and ameliorating the influences of upstream exposures such as maternal smoking and deprivation, later mortality can be decreased by reducing the delivery of vulnerable infants with LBW,” the researchers wrote. “Focusing on upstream events to prevent low birth weight remains an important health goal.” – by Will Offit
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.