The Preterm Heart in Childhood: Left Ventricular Structure, Geometry, and Function Assessed by Echocardiography in 6-Year-Old Survivors of Periviable Births

J Am Heart Assoc. 2018 Jan 20;7(2):e007742. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.117.007742.


Background: Preterm birth has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity in adult life. We evaluated whether preterm birth is associated with deviating cardiac structure and function before school start.

Methods and results: In total, 176 children aged 6 years and born extremely preterm (EXPT; gestational age of 22-26 weeks) and 134 children born at term (control [CTRL]) were studied. We used echocardiography to assess left heart dimensions, geometry, and functions. Recording and off-line analyses of echocardiographic images were performed by operators blinded to group belonging. Body size, blood pressure, and heart rate were also measured. Rates of family history of cardiovascular disease and sex distribution were similar in the EXPT and CTRL groups. Heart rate and systolic blood pressure did not differ, whereas diastolic blood pressure was slightly higher in EXPT than CTRL participants. After adjusting for body surface area, left ventricular length, width, and aortic valve annulus diameter were 3% to 5% smaller in EXPT than CTRL participants. Left ventricular longitudinal shortening and systolic tissue velocity were 7% to 11% lower, and transversal shortening fraction was 6% higher in EXPT than CTRL participants. The EXPT group also exhibited lower atrial emptying velocities than the CTRL group. Sex, fetal growth restriction, or a patent ductus arteriosus in the neonatal period did not contribute to cardiac dimensions or performance.

Conclusions: Six-year-old children born extremely preterm exhibit a unique cardiac phenotype characterized by smaller left ventricles with altered systolic and diastolic functions than same-aged children born at term.

Keywords: cardiovascular development; preterm birth; speckle tracking echocardiography; tissue Doppler imaging; ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Diastole
  • Echocardiography, Doppler*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Heart Ventricles / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart Ventricles / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Extremely Premature*
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Premature Birth*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Systole
  • Time Factors
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / etiology
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / physiopathology
  • Ventricular Function, Left*