Objectives: The long-term consequences of extreme prematurity are becoming increasingly important, given recent improvements in neonatal intensive care. The aim of the current study was to examine the cardiovascular consequences of extreme prematurity in 11-year-olds born at or before 25 completed weeks of gestation.
Methods: Age and sex-matched classmates were recruited as controls. Information concerning perinatal and maternal history was collected, and current anthropometric characteristics were measured in 219 children born extremely preterm and 153 classmates. A subset of the extremely preterm children (n = 68) and classmates (n = 90) then underwent detailed haemodynamic investigations, including measurement of supine blood pressure (BP), aortic pulse wave velocity (aPWV, a measure of aortic stiffness) and augmentation index (AIx, a measure of arterial pressure wave reflections).
Results: Seated brachial systolic and diastolic BP were not different between extremely preterm children and classmates (P = 0.3 for both), although there was a small, significant elevation in supine mean and diastolic BP in the extremely preterm children (P < 0.05 for both). Arterial pressure wave reflections were significantly elevated in the extremely preterm children (P < 0.001) and this persisted after adjusting for confounding variables. However, aortic stiffness was not different between the groups (P = 0.1).
Conclusions: These data suggest that extreme prematurity is associated with altered arterial haemodynamics in children, not evident from the examination of brachial BP alone. Moreover, the smaller, preresistance and resistance vessels rather than large elastic arteries appear to be most affected. Children born extremely preterm may be at increased future cardiovascular risk.