Objective. Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) resulting in low birth weight for gestational age may predispose one to development of cardiovascular disease later in life. Abnormal fetal blood flow in the presence of fetal growth restriction helps to distinguish infants with true fetal growth impairment from small but normal infants. Our goal was to investigate associations between IUGR with abnormal fetal blood flow and abnormal retinal vascular morphology at 18 years of age.
Methods. A prospective study was performed with 21 subjects with IUGR (abnormal fetal aortic blood flow velocity; birth weight small for gestational age; median birth weight deviation from the population mean of −31% [range: −22% to −42%] and in 23 subjects with birth weight appropriate for gestational age [normal fetal aortic blood flow velocity; median birth weight deviation of −2% (range: −10% to 22%)]). The retinal vessel morphology was evaluated by digital image analysis.
Result. Subjects with IUGR (n = 21) had significantly less retinal vascularization as evidenced by a lower number of vascular branching points (median: 26; range: 20–31) as compared with the subjects who were born appropriate for gestational age (median: 28; range: 26–32). Within the entire group (N = 44), increasing negative birth weight deviation was associated with a reduced number of vascular branching points (r = 0.36.
Conclusion. Our findings show that IUGR with abnormal fetal blood flow is associated with abnormal retinal vascular morphology in young adult life.