Background and aims Numerous studies have shown that young adults born preterm have an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. The aim of this study was to investigate which markers of an increased cardiovascular risk are already present at preschool age in children born preterm.
Methods In preschool children born preterm (gestational age less than 32 weeks) and healthy control subjects born at term, blood pressure was determined oscillometrically. Elastic properties of the ascending and descending aorta were calculated using computerised wall contour analysis out of transthoracic M-mode echocardiographic tracings.
Results 119 children were examined at 5 to 7 years of age (45 born preterm and 74 children born at term). Preschool children born preterm had significantly higher systolic blood pressure in comparison to preschool children born at term (p < 0.001). Descending aorta distensibility was significantly decreased in preschool children born preterm in comparison to preschool children born at term (p < 0.05). Diastolic blood pressure, distensibility of the ascending aorta, and stiffness index of ascending and descending aorta did not differ significantly between the two groups.
Conclusions Children born preterm already have higher systolic blood pressure and decreased distensibility of the descending aorta in comparison to children born at term at preschool age. Preliminary data of this study underline the importance of a continuous and systematical follow-up of children born preterm. Further studies are needed to investigate the clinical relevance of these findings and to find possible preventive measures to lower cardiovascular risk of this population.