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When Extremely Low Birth Weight (ELBW) Infants Become Adults: A Look at Their Cardiometabolic Health in Their 30’s :

September 12, 2016

It used to be that a good infant follow-up study involved tracking development of infants when they reached kindergarten, then elementary school, high school, and even more recently young adulthood.

It used to be that a good infant follow-up study involved tracking development of infants when they reached kindergarten, then elementary school, high school, and even more recently young adulthood. Yet thanks to the detailed data that have been collected on some very responsive longitudinal cohorts of preterm infants, we can now follow these high risk infants for four decades or more to see what role their prematurity might have on their health course as adults.  

Such is the case in a study by Morrison et al. (10.1542/peds.2016-0515) who reports on a longitudinal cohort of extremely low birth weight (ELBW) adults (who entered the cohort between 1977 and 1982) and compares these former preterm babies to a set of age and sex-matched normal birth weight (NBW) control infants. 

The focus for these investigators was on the cardiometabolic health of these ELBW infants in their fourth decade of life with the primary outcome being the presence of type 2 diabetes or prediabetes and the secondary outcome being body composition, lipid profiles, and blood pressure.  The results are interesting and somewhat troubling as they show an increased risk of dysglycemia in this former ELBW population.  Why would this happen? 

The authors offer several hypotheses that are worth reading about in the Discussion section of this paper.  Reading this study raises some cardiometabolic prevention strategies that we might be able to  implement in our former ELBW patients before they age out of our care.  So take heart, and read this article so you can do even more than you may have thought of from a preventive health standpoint early in an ELBW infant’s life to avoid the complications reported when these patients reach adulthood.

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