Low gestational age associated with abnormal retinal vascularization and increased blood pressure in adult women

Pediatr Res. 2002 Jun;51(6):675-80. doi: 10.1203/00006450-200206000-00003.


The objective was to investigate any possible relationship between functional and structural vascular changes in women with low gestational age and/or low birth weight by analyzing the retinal vascular pattern in women with thoroughly documented blood pressure. Retinal vessel morphology was evaluated by digital image analysis of ocular fundus photographs in 47 subjects, aged 23-30 y. The women were allocated into three groups: 1) those born preterm and appropriate for gestational age (AGA), with a median gestational age at birth of 30 wk and a median birth weight of 1250 g (n = 14); 2) those born small for gestational age (SGA) but full term (median 40 wk), with a median birth weight of 2130 g (n = 17), and 3) those born full term, AGA, and with a median birth weight of 3640 g (n = 16). Women born preterm had significantly higher length index for arterioles compared with the other two groups (median 1.11 and 1.08, respectively, p = 0.005). In addition, the preterm-born women had significantly fewer number of vascular branching points compared with the controls (median 27 and 30, respectively, p = 0.03). The abnormal retinal vascularization observed in ex-preterm women together with an increased casual blood pressure observed in these subjects suggests that being born preterm does have effects on the vascular system that persist into adult life. In addition, it demonstrates that preterm birth seems to affect the vascular system both functionally and structurally, which, in adulthood, could result in a lower threshold for the development of vascular disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Female
  • Fundus Oculi
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Ophthalmoscopes
  • Retinal Vessels / pathology*