Comparing very low birth weight versus very low gestation cohort methods for outcome analysis of high risk preterm infants
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Background: Compared to very low gestational age (<32 weeks, VLGA) cohorts, very low birth weight (<1500 g; VLBW) cohorts are more prone to selection bias toward small-for-gestational age (SGA) infants, which may impact upon the validity of data for benchmarking purposes. Method: Data from all VLGA or VLBW infants admitted in the 3 Networks between 2008 and 2011 were used. Two-thirds of each network cohort was randomly selected to develop prediction models for mortality and composite adverse outcome (CAO: mortality or cerebral injuries, chronic lung disease, severe retinopathy or necrotizing enterocolitis) and the remaining for internal validation. Areas under the ROC curves (AUC) of the models were compared. Results: VLBW cohort (24,335 infants) had twice more SGA infants (20.4% vs. 9.3%) than the VLGA cohort (29,180 infants) and had a higher rate of CAO (36.5% vs. 32.6%). The two models had equal prediction power for mortality and CAO (AUC 0.83), and similarly for all other cross-cohort validations (AUC 0.81-0.85). Neither model performed well for the extremes of birth weight for gestation (<1500 g and ≥32 weeks, AUC 0.50-0.65; ≥1500 g and <32 weeks, AUC 0.60-0.62). Conclusion: There was no difference in prediction power for adverse outcome between cohorting VLGA or VLBW despite substantial bias in SGA population. Either cohorting practises are suitable for international benchmarking.