Adults born preterm: a review of general health and system-specific outcomes

Acta Paediatr. 2017 Sep;106(9):1409-1437. doi: 10.1111/apa.13880. Epub 2017 May 17.


In this review of 126 publications, we report that an overwhelming majority of adults born at preterm gestations remain healthy and well. However, a small, but a significant fraction of them remain at higher risk for neurological, personality and behavioural abnormalities, cardio-pulmonary functional limitations, systemic hypertension and metabolic syndrome compared to their term-born counterparts. The magnitude of increased risk differed across organ systems and varied across reports. The risks were proportional to the degree of prematurity at birth and seemed to occur more frequently among preterm infants born in the final two decades of the 20th century and later. These findings have considerable public health and clinical practice relevance.

Conclusion: Preterm birth needs to be considered a chronic condition, with a slight increase in the risk for long-term morbidities among adults born preterm. Therefore, obtaining a history of gestational age and weight at birth should be a routine part of care for patients of all age groups.

Keywords: Adult health; Birth history; Metabolic syndrome; Personality disorders; Preterm birth.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Human Development*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases*
  • Premature Birth