Premature babies have smaller kidneys

Early birth cuts short development
  • Deborah Condon

Babies born prematurely have smaller kidneys and higher blood pressure when they reach adulthood, a new study has found.

Being born prematurely can cut short a baby's development in a number of areas, such as lung and cognitive development. Canadian researchers decided to look into this in relation to kidney development and blood pressure.

They compared the kidney size of 40 adults, all of whom had been born at 29 weeks gestation or earlier, with the kidney size of 40 adults born at full-term. The average age of all of the participants was 23.

They found that those who had been born prematurely had significantly smaller kidneys relative to the size of their bodies.

They also had higher blood pressure. This was measured after walking and was also averaged out over a 24-hour period.

While the differences in blood pressure between those born prematurely and those born full-term were not large, the researchers expressed concern about the risk facing these young adults as they enter middle-age.

"It is well known that blood pressure will increase more markedly with ageing in people who have higher blood pressures in their young adult lives than those who had lower values," commented Dr Anne Monique Nuyt of the University of Montreal.

However, she noted that it is unknown if this is also the case for those born prematurely ‘because the first survivors of extreme prematurity are only entering their 30s and 40s' now.

She added that adults who were born prematurely should receive regular medical follow-ups to keep an eye on these issues.

Details of these findings were presented at the recent American Heart Association's Council on Hypertension 2016 Scientific Sessions in Florida.


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