A delay in functional hand performance broadly affects a child's successful participation in daily activities as well as later academic performance. Despite its high prevalence, hand function has received much less attention than other developmental domains, especially for young children. The aims of this study, therefore, were to examine hand function in preterm children up to a corrected age of 24 months; to establish predictive models for estimating preterm children's hand function; and to identify the contribution of early neuromotor assessments. This study included 230 preterm children (69, 76, and 85 children at corrected ages of 6-, 12-, and 24-months, respectively) who were recruited from the database of the preemie follow-up clinic at the National Cheng Kung University Hospital in Tainan, Taiwan. Hand function was evaluated using the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales II. Demographic information, birth history, and developmental documents were obtained from the medical records of routine preemie clinic follow-ups. Approximately half of healthy preterm children demonstrate hand function deficits at 12 and 24 months of corrected age. The Neonatal Medical Index, representing an infant's history of medical complication, was the best predictor of hand function at 12 and 24 months of corrected age. The social factor, represented by maternal educational year, was found to have influence on hand function only in preterm children at corrected age of 24 months old. Finally, early neuromotor performance demonstrated significant predictability of later hand function that supports the importance of continuous follow-up examinations in children with a history of prematurity. An understanding of a preterm child's early hand function as well as how its risk factors evolve helps clinicians both target children who might benefit from early intervention and ensure that children reach their full developmental potential.
- Motor performance
- Risk factor