The association between low birth weight and premature cardiovascular disease has led to the “prenatal origin of adult disease-hypothesis”. We postulated that fetal growth restriction is associated with cardiovascular changes detectable at birth and in early infancy. Fifty-two appropriately grown fetuses (AGA) and 60 growth-restricted fetuses (FGR) with (n = 20) or without (n = 40) absent or reversed end-diastolic umbilical artery blood flow were prospectively examined by echocardiography before birth, at 1 week and 6 months of life. The impact of growth restriction on postnatal blood pressure, heart rate, cardiovascular dimensions, and function, as well as on vascular morphology of umbilical cord vessels was studied. FGR fetuses displayed significant blood flow redistribution and were delivered earlier with lower birth weights than AGA fetuses. After adjustment for gender, gestational age, and weight at birth, there were no intergroup differences in blood pressure, heart rate, left ventricular morphology, mass, and performance, and in cord vessel morphology. During the first 6 months of life brachioradial pulse wave velocity increased more in FGR fetuses, while other parameters describing vascular stiffness remained comparable between the groups. Fetal growth restriction had no detectable adverse impact on cardiovascular dimensions and function at birth. Cardiovascular findings also remained comparable during the first 6 months of life between the groups except a higher increase in brachioradial pulse wave velocity in the FGR group. Our observations suggest that abnormalities that link reduced intrauterine growth with premature cardiovascular diseases may commence later in childhood, indicating a potential window for screening and prevention.
- Intrauterine growth restriction
- Placental insufficiency
- Pulse wave velocity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine