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CONTEXT: Preterm birth is associated with incident heart failure in children and young adults. OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect size of preterm birth on cardiac remodeling from birth to young adulthood. DATA SOURCES: Data sources include Medline, Embase, Scopus, Cochrane databases, and clinical trial registries (inception to March 25, 2020). STUDY SELECTION: Studies in which cardiac phenotype was compared between preterm individuals born at <37 weeks’ gestation and age-matched term controls were included. DATA EXTRACTION: Random-effects models were used to calculate weighted mean differences with corresponding 95% confidence intervals. RESULTS: Thirty-two observational studies were included (preterm = 1471; term = 1665). All measures of left ventricular (LV) and right ventricular (RV) systolic function were lower in preterm neonates, including LV ejection fraction (P = .01). Preterm LV ejection fraction was similar from infancy, although LV stroke volume index was lower in young adulthood. Preterm LV peak early diastolic tissue velocity was lower throughout development, although preterm diastolic function worsened with higher estimated filling pressures from infancy. RV longitudinal strain was lower in preterm-born individuals of all ages, proportional to the degree of prematurity (R2 = 0.64; P = .002). Preterm-born individuals had persistently smaller LV internal dimensions, lower indexed LV end-diastolic volume in young adulthood, and an increase in indexed LV mass, compared with controls, of 0.71 g/m2 per year from childhood (P = .007). LIMITATIONS: The influence of preterm-related complications on cardiac phenotype could not be fully explored. CONCLUSIONS: Preterm-born individuals have morphologic and functional cardiac impairments across developmental stages. These changes may make the preterm heart more vulnerable to secondary insults, potentially underlying their increased risk of early heart failure.

Original publication




Journal article




American Academy of Pediatrics

Publication Date