The association between prematurity, motor fuction and health related quality of life among learners in the foundation primary phase

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Introduction and Aims: Children born prematurely (≤ 36 weeks gestation) are at risk of poor developmental outcomes and are more likely than their full-term (FT) peers to have behavioural, physical and/or cognitive limitations. In order to deliver effective interventions, therapists need to have a sound understanding of the problems experienced by children who were born prematurely. Presently, very little is known about the functional problems of young school aged children, living in the Free State province of South Africa, who were born prematurely. Methodology: This study was conducted in 15 randomly selected schools located within in a 100 km radius of Bloemfontein. Two groups of children in grades R, 1 and 2 (age range: 5-8 years) were recruited, the first group (PREM group) consisted of children having a history of premature birth (≤ 36 weeks). The second group consisted of full term children (FT group) who were matched for age and gender to the first group. The PREM group was categorised into three subgroups according to prematurity status: late premature (34-36 weeks, LP), moderate (MP) to very premature (29-33 weeks, VP) and extremely premature (≤ 28 weeks, EP). A self-designed questionnaire was used to record demographic and medical information obtained from parents. The questions were related to antenatal factors, birth and medical history of the child. The Movement Assessment Battery for Children second edition (MABC-2) and MABC-2 Checklist were used to evaluate functional motor problems in children. The European Quality of Life Dimension Scale- Youth version (EQ-5D-Y) was used to determine the Health Related Quality of Life of the children and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was used to describe the behavioural and emotional status of each child according to their parents and teachers. Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Cape Town Research Ethics Committee (HREC REF: 694/2014) and permission to conduct the study within schools was granted by the Free State Education Department. Informed consent and assent was obtained. Parents were interviewed by a research assistant using the self-designed questionnaire. A different researcher then tested all children using the MABC-2 and assisted each child to complete the EQ-5D-Y. The parents and teachers each completed the SDQ and teachers completed the MABC-2 checklist. Statistical analysis was conducted using SAS® Version 9.4 and STATISTICA 10. The data were summarized using descriptive statistics (i.e. number of available data (n), mean, and standard deviation, minimum, median and maximum). The Mann Whitney U test was used to compare groups (PREM vs FT groups) and the Chi-square test was used to determine any association between groups and 5 descriptive variables. Comparisons between prematurity subgroups were conducted using the Kruskal- Wallis ANOVA. Results: 122 children participated in this study: 61 FT children and 61 PREM children. The PREM group consisted of 23 children who were classified as late premature, 27 who were moderate to very premature and 11 children who were extremely premature There were no differences between groups in terms of age (U = 1760, z = -0.51, p = 0.610), gender (Chi = 0.03, df = 2, p = 0.86), grade level (Chi = 0.386, df = 3, p = 0.98) and socioeconomic status [as defined by mothers level of education (Chi = 3.79, df = 2, p = 0.15) and school quintile (Chi = 5.22, df =2, p = 0.07)]. Differences were found in terms of maternal age at delivery (PREM = 31.9 years [SD=5.2] vs. FT = 29.02 years [SD = 3.5] df = 120, t = -3.61, p < 0.001). As expected, the PREM group had a significantly lower birthweight compared to the FT group (PREM = 2201g [SD = 748] vs. FT = 3132g [SD = 406], df = 120, t = 8.54, p < 0.001). 96.7% of those in the PREM group were born via C/section (p < 0.0001). Apart from one case of respiratory distress, the FT group reported no neonatal complications. As expected, more candidates in the PREM group were more frequently hospitalised (Chi = 34.605, df = 2), and cases of CP were reported. The APGAR scores were significantly different between FT and PREM groups at 1min (p<0.0001) and 5min (p<0.0001) Regarding motor performance, there was a significant difference in MABC-2 Total Standard Scores (MABC TSS) (U = 1425.0, z = 2.23, p = 0.026) and the MABC-Checklist Total Motor Scores (U = 1016.5, z = -4.32, p < 0.0001) with FT group performing better and reporting less functional motor problems than the PREM group. Regarding HRQoL, we found that groups were also significantly different in terms of the Mobility domain of the EQ-5D-Y with the Prem group reporting more problems than the FT group (Chi = 6.31, df =1, p = 0.012). No differences were found between groups with regard to the Looking After Myself (Chi = 2.03, df =1, p = 0.153), Usual Activities (Chi = 0.00, df = 1, p = 1.0), Worried/Sad/Unhappy (Chi = 1.22, df =1, p = 0.541), and Pain/Discomfort (Chi = 3.59, df = 1, p = 0.165) domains. In terms of emotional-behavioural status, we found no differences between the two groups in terms of Parent Total Difficulties scores (U = 1791.50, z = -0.351, p = 0.725) as well as Teachers Total Difficulties Scores (U = 1518.0, z = -1.751, p = 0.08). However, the FT group scored lower than the PREM group on the emotional domain (U = 1404.0, z = -2.33, p = 0.02) indicating less problems and higher on the prosocial domain (U = 1335.0, z = 2.68, p = 0.007) indicating more positive factors in this group. On examination of the PREM sub groups, we found no differences in Parent Total Difficulties Score between groups (p = 0.377). When we compared parent versus teacher SDQ scores, 45 (73.8 %) cases where the parent and teacher were in agreement with the "normal" assigned score. In addition, there were 2 (3.3 %) cases were the parent and teacher respectively assigned a score of "abnormal" and "borderline". Regarding the Impact scores, parents/caregivers reported that the difficulties (emotional, conduct, hyperactivity, peer and prosocial problems) did not have an impact on a child's friendship (p = 0.2889), classroom learning (p = 0.2325), leisure activities (p = 0.3585) or their home life (p = 0.1248). In contrast, teachers' responses indicated that the difficulties had an influence on classroom learning (p = 0.0030) but not friendships (p = 0.2374). Discussion: The late premature group made up a bigger proportion of the premature group. This correlates with the PPIP report, where the same trend was noted for the South African premature population (Pattinson, Saving Babies [PPIP], 2012-2013; Kalimba & Ballot, 2013). Findings from this study correlated with literature on PREM children being more at risk of decreased motor function when compared to FT peers (Hack et al., 2002; Chyi et al., 2008; Stephans & Vohr, 2009; Van Baar et al., 2009; Hornby & Woodward, 2009; Van Baar et al, 2013). Fine motor skills is essential in a child's daily activities and very important to function at school. This study indicated a deficiency within fine motor and balance domains within the PREM group. Maternal age surfaced as predictor of motor performance as younger mothers (< 19 years) have an increased risk of low birth weight and premature infants (very and extremely premature) (Schempf, Branum, Lukacs & Schoendorf, 2007; Gibbs, Wendt, Peters & Hogue, 2012; Kalimba & Ballot, 2013; Fall, Sachdev, Osmond, Restrepo-Mendez, Victora, Martorell, Stein, Sinha, et al., 2015; Benli, Benli, Usta, Atakul, Koroglu, 2015). Literature on older mothers (≥ age 35) also showed an increased risk towards premature birth (moderate and very premature) with more medical conditions (such as hypertension and diabetes)-this was not the case in this research (Schempf et al., 2007; Gibbs et al., 2012; Kalimba & Ballot, 2013; Fall et al., 2015; Benli et al., 2015), however it is reported that PREM infants from older mothers show somewhat better outcomes of infants later in life (Schempf et al., 2007; Gibbs et al., 2012; Kalimba & Ballot, 2013; Fall et al., 2015; Benli et al., 2015). Other findings from this research indicated that, from the teachers' perspectives, PREM children showed a greater tendency towards emotional and prosocial behaviour impairments, than the FT population. This align with literature where premature infants are mentioned to be more susceptible to behaviour performance problems at school-age (Kerstjens et al., 2012; Bos et al., 2013; Moreira et al., 7 2014). In this research, the extremely premature group had more behavioural problems which had an impact on theses children's leisure activities, peer, and classroom learning. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that PREM children have more motor problems than FT children and that the very preterm group showed the highest risk for motor problems. Maternal age also indicated to be an influencing factor where mothers younger than 19, as well as mother over 35, both indicated a risk for premature birth, resulting in low birth weight. Other risk factors influencing function in the PREM, apart from low birth weight, indicated by the results were factors like respiratory distress, apnoea, haemorrhaging and the exposure to post-natal steroids. According to teacher's perceptions, the children in the PREM group, tended to show more behavioural and emotional problems that those of the FT sample.