Relation of arterial stiffness with gestational age and birth weight

Y F Cheung, K Y Wong, Barbara C C Lam, N S Tsoi
Archives of Disease in Childhood 2004, 89 (3): 217-21

BACKGROUND: The cardiovascular risk of individuals who are born small as a result of prematurity remains controversial. Given the previous findings of stiffer peripheral conduit arteries in growth restricted donor twins in twin-twin transfusion syndrome regardless of gestational age, we hypothesised that among children born preterm, only those with intrauterine growth retardation are predisposed to an increase in cardiovascular risks.

AIM: To compare brachioradial arterial stiffness and systemic blood pressure (BP) among children born preterm and small for gestational age (group 1, n = 15), those born preterm but having birth weight appropriate for gestational age (group 2, n = 36), and those born at term with birth weight appropriate for gestational age (group 3, n = 35).

METHODS: Systemic BP was measured by an automated device (Dinamap), while stiffness of the brachioradial arterial segment was assessed by measuring pulse wave velocity (PWV). The birth weight was adjusted for gestational age and expressed as a z score for analysis.

RESULTS: The 86 children were studied at a mean (SD) age of 8.2 (1.7) years. Subjects from group 1, who were born at 32.3 (2.0) weeks' gestation had a significantly lower z score of birth weight (-2.29 (0.63), p<0.001), compared with those from groups 2 and 3. They had a significantly higher mean blood pressure (p<0.001) and their diastolic blood pressure also tended to be higher (p = 0.07). Likewise, their brachioradial PWV, and hence arterial stiffness, was the highest of the three groups (p<0.001). While subjects from group 2 were similarly born preterm, their PWV was not significantly different from that of group 3 subjects (p = 1.00) and likewise their z score of birth weight did not differ (-0.01 (0.71) v -0.04 (1.1), p = 1.00). Brachioradial PWV correlated significantly with systolic (r = 0.31, p = 0.004), diastolic (r = 0.38, p<0.001), and mean (0.47, p<0.001) BP, and with z score of birth weight (r = -0.43, p<0.001). Multiple linear regression identified mean BP and z score of birth weight as significant determinants of PWV.

CONCLUSION: The findings of the present study support the hypothesis that among children born preterm, only those with intrauterine growth retardation are disadvantaged as a result of increase in systemic arterial stiffness and mean blood pressure.

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