BACKGROUND: There are only few data on medical problems and utilization of health services of former very low birth weight (VLBW) children at preschool age.
STUDY DESIGN: At five years of age parents of a cohort of VLBW children (N=862) received questionnaires, a medical interview and examination. The results were compared to the KIGGS cohort (Deutscher-Kinder-und Jugendgesundheitssurvey, N=777).
RESULTS: Parents of the VLBW and KIGGS cohort reported a very good or good health in 95% in their children. When compared to the KIGGS cohort, families in the VLBW cohort had a lower social economic status. The VLBW cohort suffered more frequently from disabilities (9.6% vs. 1.4%), from chronic bronchitis (45% vs. 17%) and from recurrent pain (headaches (20% vs. 7%), ear (16% vs. 6%), throat (23% vs. 8%), tooth (10% vs. 3%)). The VLBW cohort received more specialized care (ophthalmologist, ENT, orthopaedics, paediatric neurologist).
CONCLUSION: Families of VLBW children report a good health status in their children, but they utilized more specialized care. Higher rates of pain are reported in the VLBW cohort. Chronic bronchitis and various upper respiratory infections cause an increased morbidity in former VLBW children. Follow up programs are needed to develop optimal treatment and prevention strategies for these problems.