Physicians' Academy for Cardiovascular Education

Preterm birth associated with increased risk of new-onset HF into adulthood

Association of Preterm Birth With Long-term Risk of Heart Failure Into Adulthood

Literature - Crump C, Groves A, Sundquist J, Sundquist K. - JAMA Pediatr. 2021 Apr 5. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.0131.

Introduction and methods

Preterm birth (<37 weeks) is associated with cardiometabolic disorders, cardiovascular malformations, and cardiac remodeling that may predispose people to develop HF [1-3]. Also, adults who were born preterm have increased risk of known risk factors for HF such as hypertension, diabetes, lipid disorders, ischemic heart disease, and sleep-disordered breathing [4-9]. However, the long-term risk for the development of HF in adulthood in individuals born prematurely is unknown. Furthermore, it remains unclear what the relative contributions are of familial factors (genetic and/or environmental) vs. direct outcomes of preterm birth with regard to HF risk.

This study assessed 1) whether gestational age at birth is associated with increased risk of HF from childhood into mid-adulthood in a large population, 2) whether sex-specific differences existed, and 3) explored the possible influence of genetic and/or environmental factors by co-sibling analyses.

This study used the Swedish Birth Register to include 4 193 069 singleton births between 1973 to 2014. The cohort was followed up for the earliest diagnosis of HF from birth through December 31, 2015. HF was identified using the Swedish Hospital, Outpatient, or Cause of Death Registries. The primary analysis addressed whether preterm birth was associated with an increased risk of HF in adulthood across the age range of 0-43 years and in three age intervals (<1 years, 1-17 years, and 18-43 years). Individuals were stratified to gestational age at birth groups: extremely preterm births (22-27 weeks, n=8,324), moderately preterm births (28-33 weeks, n=44,373), late preterm births (34-36 weeks, n=157,342), early term births (37-38 weeks, n=740,391), full term births (39-41 weeks, n=2,896,444), and post term births (≥42 weeks, n=346,195). Also, the first 3 groups were combined to estimate HF risks for preterm infants (<37 weeks, n=210,039). The co-sibling analyses (n=3 530 215; 84.2% of the cohort) assessed potential confounding by unmeasured shared familial factors. The median age of the entire cohort at the end of the follow-up was 22.5 years (mean age was 22.2 ± 12.2 (SD) years).

Main results


This study demonstrated that preterm birth was associated with increased risk for HF into adulthood. The lower the gestational age of an infant at birth, the higher the risk for the development of HF. Co-sibling analyses suggested that the observed association between preterm birth and development of HF in 18-43 year old individuals might be largely due to shared familial determinants of preterm birth and development of HF in adulthood.


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Find this article online at JAMA Pediatr.

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