Background and aims Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. A growing body of evidence suggests that preterm infants develop an unfavourable cardiovascular risk profile in adult life. The aim of this study was to investigate whether early laboratory and ultrasonographic markers of an increased cardiovascular risk are present in former preterm infants at a preschool age.
Methods Former preterm infants born in Tyrol between 2006 and 2008 with a gestational age <32 weeks were followed up at a corrected age of five to seven years. Healthy preschoolers born at term served as controls. Glucose and cholesterol levels were determined after a minimum overnight fasting period of twelve hours. Aortic intima-media thickness (aIMT) was assessed by means of high resolution ultrasound and a software quantification tool.
Results 137 children (preterm: 64, term: 73) were examined. Blood samples were obtained from 80 participants (preterm: 57, term: 23). In comparison to children born at term, former preterm infants had significantly higher HDL cholesterol, but also fasting glucose levels. Total and LDL cholesterol levels tended to be higher in the preterm group, but these findings did not reach statistical significance. aIMT measurements did not differ between groups. All parameters were independent of current BMI percentile and gender.
Conclusions In comparison to children born at term, former preterm infants have higher fasting glucose levels and show dualistic cholesterol alterations at a preschool age. The relevance of these findings with regard to future cardiovascular health will be addressed by additional studies.