What are the consequences of premature birth for later cardiac structure and function?
In this cardiac magnetic resonance imaging–based cross-sectional cohort study, adolescents (n = 20) and young adults (n = 38) born moderately to extremely preterm (≤32 weeks) demonstrated statistically significantly smaller biventricular cardiac chamber size and lower biventricular mass compared with 52 age-matched participants who were born at term. Cardiac function was preserved, with a hypercontractile strain pattern in adults.
Adolescents and young adults born prematurely had statistically significantly smaller biventricular cardiac chamber size with preserved function, notably without a hypertrophic response, which may contribute to their increased lifetime cardiovascular risk.
Premature birth is associated with substantially higher lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease, including arrhythmia, ischemic disease, and heart failure, although the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood.
To characterize cardiac structure and function in adolescents and young adults born preterm using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Design, Setting, and Participants
This cross-sectional cohort study at an academic medical center included adolescents and young adults born moderately to extremely premature (20 in the adolescent cohort born from 2003 to 2004 and 38 in the young adult cohort born in the 1980s and 1990s) and 52 age-matched participants who were born at term and underwent cardiac MRI. The dates of analysis were February 2016 to October 2019.
Premature birth (gestational age ≤32 weeks) or birth weight less than 1500 g.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Main study outcomes included MRI measures of biventricular volume, mass, and strain.
Of 40 adolescents (24 [60%] girls), the mean (SD) age of participants in the term and preterm groups was 13.3 (0.7) years and 13.0 (0.7) years, respectively. Of 70 adults (43 [61%] women), the mean (SD) age of participants in the term and preterm groups was 25.4 (2.9) years and 26.5 (3.5) years, respectively. Participants from both age cohorts who were born prematurely had statistically significantly smaller biventricular cardiac chamber size compared with participants in the term group: the mean (SD) left ventricular end-diastolic volume index was 72 (7) vs 80 (9) and 80 (10) vs 92 (15) mL/m2 for adolescents and adults in the preterm group compared with age-matched participants in the term group, respectively (P < .001), and the mean (SD) left ventricular end-systolic volume index was 30 (4) vs 34 (6) and 32 (7) vs 38 (8) mL/m2, respectively (P < .001). Stroke volume index was also reduced in adolescent vs adult participants in the preterm group vs age-matched participants in the term group, with a mean (SD) of 42 (7) vs 46 (7) and 48 (7) vs 54 (9) mL/m2, respectively (P < .001), although biventricular ejection fractions were preserved. Biventricular mass was statistically significantly lower in adolescents and adults born preterm: the mean (SD) left ventricular mass index was 39.6 (5.9) vs 44.4 (7.5) and 40.7 (7.3) vs 49.8 (14.0), respectively (P < .001). Cardiac strain analyses demonstrated a hypercontractile heart, primarily in the right ventricle, in adults born prematurely.
Conclusions and Relevance
In this cross-sectional study, adolescents and young adults born prematurely had statistically significantly smaller biventricular cardiac chamber size and decreased cardiac mass. Although function was preserved in both age groups, these morphologic differences may be associated with elevated lifetime cardiovascular disease risk after premature birth.
Goss KN, Haraldsdottir K, Beshish AG, et al. Association Between Preterm Birth and Arrested Cardiac Growth in Adolescents and Young Adults. JAMA Cardiol. Published online May 20, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2020.1511
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