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Premature Babies Have a Greater Risk of Heart Failure in Adulthood

Update Date: Aug 13, 2013 11:47 AM EDT
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Babies who are born prematurely might suffer from certain health conditions immediately after birth. Since these babies have not developed fully, they have to remain at the hospital where they can be supervised until they are healthy enough to go home. Even though the majority of premature babies end up growing like any other baby born at full term, a new study suggests that there might be underlying health concerns that premature babies face when they age. In this new study, researcher reported that people who were born prematurely are at a greater risk of suffering from heart failure.

"We wanted to understand why this occurs so that we can identify the small group of patients born premature who may need advice from their health care provider about this cardiovascular risk," said study author Paul Leeson, a professor of cardiology at the University of Oxford's Cardiovascular Clinical Research Facility in the U.K., in a press release. "The changes we have found in the right ventricle are quite distinct and intriguing."

For this study, the researchers examined the information of a group of people who were born prematurely in the 1980s. The study had followed them up until they reached 25-years-old. The researchers tested their blood pressure and cholesterol levels by using standardized heart tests. On top of that, the researchers also utilized MRI machines to measure the participants' blood vessels and heart structures. After collecting this information, the researchers used a computer model to get a close estimation of how much blood each participant pumped to the heart.

The researchers discovered that adults who were premature had slightly smaller hearts with thicker walls. This different shape led to a reduction in how much blood was pumped. The researchers found specifically that premature people had specific changes to their hearts' right ventricles. These small changes could lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure and death due to cardiovascular complications.

"The vast majority will be absolutely fine," Leeson stated. The researchers hope that people who were born prematurely discuss such risks with their primary care physicians.

The study was published in Circulation.

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