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Hypertens Res. 2013 May;36(5):440-3. doi: 10.1038/hr.2012.219. Epub 2013 Jan 31.

Fetal aortic wall thickness: a marker of hypertension in IUGR children?

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Department of Pediatrics, Department of Gynecological Science and Human Reproduction, Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, University of Padua School of Medicine, Via Guistiniani 3, Padua, Italy.


Fetuses with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) have significant aortic intima-media thickening (aIMT), which suggests that preclinical atherosclerosis might predispose the infants to hypertension. However, the natural course of aIMT in babies with IUGR remains an open question.The study enrolled 77 pregnant women between January 2007 and August 2009. The fetuses were classified as AGA (appropriate for gestational age) or IUGR, if the estimated fetal weight was between the 10th and 90th percentile or below the 10th percentile (with umbilical artery pulsatility index (PI) >2s.d.), respectively. Anthropometric parameters and aIMT were detected in each IUGR and AGA fetus at a mean gestational age of 32 weeks. The follow-up was performed in 25 IUGR and 25 AGA infants at a mean postnatal age of 18 months; the previous measurements were repeated, and blood pressure measurements were taken. The maximum aIMT was significantly higher in the IUGR fetuses and infants compared with the AGA infants, both in utero (2.05±0.43 vs. 1.05±0.19 mm, P<0.001) and at the follow-up (2.3±0.8 vs. 1.06±0.18 mm, P<0.0001), the resulting values significantly correlated (P=0.018) with one another. The systolic blood pressure was significantly increased in the IUGR subjects (123±16 vs. 104±8.5 mm Hg, P<0.0004), and it correlated with the prenatal and postnatal aIMT values (P<0.0156 and P<0.0054, respectively). The aortic wall thickening progression in IUGR fetuses and infants differed from AGA, which may predispose the infants to hypertension early in life and cardiovascular risk later in life.

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