Helping to improve long-term outcomes for very premature babies.

Past Studies

Did you know that Victoria has the world’s best survival rate for premature babies?

VICS has followed the progress of premature babies for over three decades. The results can be found published in world recognised medical and scientific journals.

Research team leader, Professor Lex Doyle, started working with premature babies in 1975 when there were few specialised intensive care beds and ventilators were not suitable for tiny babies.

But in recent times the survival rate of babies of birth weight 500-999 grams born in Victoria had improved from one in four to three in four in less than 18 years and Prof Doyle attributes this increased survival to the fact that most of these tiny babies are now born in one of the three major maternity hospitals in the State.

Now that the survival rate for the very tiny premature babies is so high, our goal now is to make sure that these very early babies are able to look forward to a healthy life free of any major health problems.

One of the ways we are able to monitor the health of the tiny babies is to have a group of children who are born in the same year but are full term and of normal birth weight. These children are very important in our studies and we are grateful to their parents for allowing them to help us in our research.

ALL VICS GROUPS SINCE THE BEGINNING

Years of birth and ages of assessments of Victorian cohorts
Non-italicised numbers indicate ages at which assessments have been completed. Red italicised numbers indicate years and ages for future studies

Year of Birth Ages
assessed
(years)
     
1979-80 2 5 8 14
1985-87 2 5 8  
1991-92 2 5 8 18
1997 2   8 15-16
2005 2   7 14

 

VICS STUDY GROUP 1979-1980

Results of research into the long term outcomes of very tiny babies (birth weight less than 1000g ).

The participants in this group were reviewed at ages 2, 5, 8 and 14 years.

Participants who were born at the Royal Women’s Hospital were also reviewed between 18 and 22 years of age.

The following is a summary of the information sent out to the people who participated in the study as young adults.

You will remember coming to see us a couple of years ago either at the Royal Children’s Hospital or in Brisbane at the Mater Hospital. Brenda and Kate enjoyed meeting you all again and we would like to thank you all for being a part of this special research study.

When we last caught up with you a few years ago we were particularly interested in growth, blood pressure, and breathing ability. Some of these results from the study have appeared in scientific journals over the last few years, and some have appeared in the general press as well.

The results are summarized here by Prof.Lex Doyle, Paediatrician.


Growth
Despite their tiny size at birth, most young adults who weighed less than 1000g have grown normally and reached expected heights and weights. This was not always the case, however. Most of you started on average with weights only ¼ the size of the non–prem children. By 8-9 years of age you were mostly indistinguishable in height and weight, with only a few cms or a few kilograms difference on average. As you reached the teenage years, weight had caught up to average and height was consistent with your genetic potential (that is, height expectation knowing the height of your parents).

 

By around 20 years of age there has been little relative change; weight is again average and height is consistent with parents height, which in this group is a little below average for all people in the community. Most have stopped growing but weight may well continue to increase. As is common in all people in the community, there is a tendency to being slightly over weight for height.

Blood pressure
You will all remember wearing the blood pressure machine for a day. I hope it was not too much of a bother. 

Most of you had blood pressure readings in the normal range. There were a few individuals where blood pressure is starting to rise at an earlier age than is normally expected. It is possible that the blood pressure of people born prematurely may be higher later in adulthood and so we need to keep monitoring this.

Breathing ability
Most of you needed help with breathing after birth, either from ventilators or with oxygen, sometimes for many weeks.
Most now have breathing test results in the normal range in early adulthood, but as a group some do have trouble getting air in and out of the lungs. Breathing ability peaks in early adulthood and deteriorates over the rest of life - in smokers it deteriorates even faster. In those who were born very prematurely and who smoke, it is deteriorating at an even faster rate. The good news is that most of the deterioration seems to be reversible at this stage, so if smokers are able to give up there should be some recovery of their breathing ability. However, if they continue to smoke the changes will become irreversible over time.

We have really enjoyed getting to know you all over the years and would like to thank you and your families for your previous involvement in this study. We hope to be able to see you again in a few years time to repeat some of these tests. So keep in touch! We love to hear any news from you, feel free to call in if ever you are around Carlton, maybe we can take you an a tour of the Nursery, it certainly is fantastic for the parents of sick babies to see such grown up ex-prems.

If you have any questions or we can help you in any way please don’t hesitate to let us know.

Best wishes

Kate Callanan ( Research Coordinator )
Professor Lex Doyle (Paediatrician)
Brenda Faber (Research Nurse)

Premature Infant Follow up Programme

VICS STUDY GROUP 2005

The VICS group of children, born in Victoria in 2005, are currently being assessed to determine the outcome of extremely low birthweight survivors at early school age and comparing them with controls who are both of normal birthweight, >2500g) and non-premature (birthweight >2499g). Previously this group was assessed at 2 years of age. This time outcomes for the whole group will focus on working memory, as well as reasoning ability, maths, spelling, comprehension, motor skills, growth and coordination and respiratory function.

Working memory is an important skill necessary for learning information and developing basic academic skills. It is the ability to temporarily store new information for everyday activities necessary for problem solving and planning.

So as part of this study we are offering the group that were born prematurely, a 5-7 week computer-based intervention program to improve working memory. This interactive computer training program will involve daily sessions, at home, taking about 35 minutes each session. A computer will be provided to the family for the duration of the program.

More detailed information will be given to families at the initial assessment day.

Victorian Infants Collaborative Studies

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