This work is part of the NEO-ACQUA (NEONATAL ADEQUATE CARE for QUALITY of LIFE) multi-center, longitudinal study, whose main aim is to assess the quality of life of very preterm infant who are considered "healthy" and in absence of medical complications at discharge. This paper details the outcomes of the neurobehavioral assessment. The major purpose was to investigate possible differences about the neurological and behavioral profile between term and preterm infants. 69 very preterm infants (gestational age < 30th week and/or birth weight < 1500 gr) and 33 term infants took part in this study. Preterm infants were assessed at term equivalent age (_ 37 weeks), while term infants between the second and the third day of life. The neurobehavioral assessment was carried out with Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Network Neurobehavioral Scale (NNNS). Compared to term infants, preterm showed a greater number of non-optimal reflexes and a poorer quality of movements. In the behavioral domain preterm infants showed lower attentional skills and lower ability in the exchanges with the environment. Furthermore, they exhibited a lesser ability in the distress regulation. Finally, they showed higher level of stress. The findings highlight that very preterm infants have an alteration of neurobehavioral profile, even in absence of documented medical complications. This evidence is discussed in the light of the possible use of the NNNS in early intervention programs to preterm infants and to support their caregivers.
Keywords: Neurobehavioral examination, preterm infant, high-risk infant, parent-infant relationship