Defining Body Mass Index Using Weight and Length for Gestational Age in the Growth Assessment of Preterm Infants at Birth


School of Data Science and Analytics

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Objective  The objectives of this study were to describe (1) body mass indexes (BMIs) using weight and length for gestational age (GA) classifications, and (2) the additional information BMI, as a measure of body proportionality, provides for preterm infant growth assessment and care plans at birth. Study Design  Birth weight, length, and BMI of 188,646 preterm infants (24-36 weeks gestation) admitted to U.S. neonatal intensive care units (Pediatrix Clinical Data Warehouse, 2013-2018) were classified (Olsen curves) as small, appropriate, or large for GA (SGA < 10th, AGA 10-90th, LGA > 90th percentile for GA, respectively). The distribution for the 27 weight-length-BMI combinations was described. Results  At birth, most infants were appropriate for weight (80.0%), length (82.2%), head circumference (82.9%), and BMI (79.9%) for GA. Birth weight for GA identified approximately 20% of infants as SGA or LGA. Infants born SGA (or LGA) for both weight and length (proportionate in size) were usually appropriate for BMI (59.0% and 75.6%). BMI distinguished disproportionate weight for length in infants with SGA or LGA weight at birth (58.3%, 49.9%). BMI also identified 11.4% of AGA weight infants as small or large for BMI (disproportionate in size) at birth; only using weight for GA missed these underweight/overweight for length infants. Conclusion  The unique, additional information provided by birth BMI further informs individualized preterm infant growth assessment by providing an assessment of an infant's body proportionality (weight relative to its length) in addition to the routine assessment of weight, length, and head circumference for GA and may better inform care plans and impact outcomes. Key Points Most preterm infants were born AGA for all growth measures. AGA weight infants may be under- or overweight for length. BMI distinguished body disproportionality in SGA/LGA infants. Recommend BMI assessed along with weight, length and head. Further research on BMI in preterm infants is needed.

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American Journal of Perinatology

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