Early Neurodevelopmental Assessments for Predicting Long-Term Outcomes in Infants at High Risk of Cerebral Palsy

Abdul Razak, Emily Johnston, Vathana Sackett, Marissa Clark, Margaret Charlton, Lindsay Zhou, Pramod Pharande, Courtney A. McDonald, Rod W. Hunt, Suzanne L. Miller, Atul Malhotra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Importance: Studies suggest that early neurodevelopmental assessments are beneficial for identifying cerebral palsy, yet their effectiveness in practical scenarios and their ability to detect cognitive impairment are limited. Objective: To assess the effectiveness of early neurodevelopmental assessments in identifying cerebral palsy and cognitive and other neurodevelopmental impairments, including their severity, within a multidisciplinary clinic. Design, Setting, and Participants: This diagnostic study was conducted at Monash Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia. Participants were extremely preterm infants born at less than 28 weeks' gestation or extremely low birth weight infants less than 1000 g and term encephalopathic infants who received therapeutic hypothermia, attending the early neurodevelopmental clinic between January 2019 and July 2021. Data were analyzed from December 2023 to January 2024. Exposures: Early cerebral palsy or high risk of cerebral palsy, the absence of fidgety movements, and Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination (HINE) scores at corrected age (CA) 3 to 4 months. Early cerebral palsy or high risk of cerebral palsy diagnosis was based on absent fidgety movements, a low HINE score (<57), and medical neurological examination. Main Outcome and Measures: The outcomes of interest were cerebral palsy, cognitive and neurodevelopmental impairments and their severity, diagnosed at 24 to 36 months' CA. Results: A total of 116 infants (median [IQR] gestational age, 27 [25-29] weeks; 65 [56%] male) were included. Diagnosis of early cerebral palsy or high risk of cerebral palsy demonstrated a sensitivity of 92% (95% CI, 63%-99%) and specificity of 84% (95% CI, 76%-90%) for predicting cerebral palsy and 100% (95% CI, 59%-100%) sensitivity and 80% (95% CI, 72%-87%) specificity for predicting moderate to severe cerebral palsy. Additionally, the accuracy of diagnosis of early cerebral palsy or high risk of cerebral palsy was 85% (95% CI, 77%-91%) for predicting cerebral palsy and 81% (95% CI, 73%-88%) for predicting moderate to severe cerebral palsy. Similarly, the absence of fidgety movements had an 81% (95% CI, 73%-88%) accuracy in predicting cerebral palsy, and HINE scores exhibited good discriminatory power with an area under the curve of 0.88 (95% CI, 0.79-0.97) for cerebral palsy prediction. However, for cognitive impairment, the predictive accuracy was 44% (95% CI, 35%-54%) for an early cerebral palsy or high risk of cerebral palsy diagnosis and 45% (95% CI, 36%-55%) for the absence of fidgety movements. Similarly, HINE scores showed poor discriminatory power for predicting cognitive impairment, with an area under the curve of 0.62 (95% CI, 0.51-0.73). Conclusions and Relevance: In this diagnostic study of infants at high risk for cerebral palsy or other cognitive or neurodevelopmental impairment, early neurodevelopmental assessments at 3 to 4 months' CA reliably predicted cerebral palsy and its severity at 24 to 36 months' CA, signifying its crucial role in facilitating early intervention. However, for cognitive impairment, longer-term assessments are necessary for accurate identification..

Original languageEnglish
Article numberE2413550
Number of pages10
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Cite this