Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Low birth weight is associated with hypertension and increased cardiovascular mortality, but the mechanism of this association is not known. Hypertension is accompanied by abnormalities of the microvasculature including rarefaction. OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that low birth weight is associated with an alteration in microvascular architecture. DESIGN: A stratified random sample of 100 men aged 64-74 years was selected from a cohort of men whose birth weights were known. They were of relatively high or low birth weight ('high' > or = 3700 g, 'low' < or = 3200 g) and high or low systolic blood pressure (high > or = 160 mmHg, low < or = 140 mmHg). METHODS: Retinal arteriolar geometry was defined in terms of arteriolar bifurcation angles and junction exponents (a measure of the relative diameters of parent and daughter vessels), measured from photographic diapositives using operator-directed image analysis. RESULTS: Members of low-birth-weight groups had significantly narrower bifurcation angles than did members of high-birth-weight groups (74 +/- 1 degree versus 78 +/- 1 degree, P= 0.017 by analysis of variance). There was no significant difference between angles in members of groups with high and low blood pressures. Neither birth weight nor blood pressure grouping affected junction exponents. CONCLUSIONS: Narrower bifurcation angles are associated with increased circulatory energy costs and may be related to a lower than normal microvascular density. Our finding of differences in retinal microvascular architecture might reflect a persistent alteration in vascular architecture as a result of an impairment of foetal development and could provide a mechanistic link between low birth weight and subsequently increased cardiovascular risk.

Original publication

DOI

10.1097/00004872-199715120-00012

Type

Journal article

Journal

Journal of hypertension

Publication Date

12/1997

Volume

15

Pages

1449 - 1453

Addresses

Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Imperial College School of Medicine at St Mary's, St Mary's Hospital, London, UK.

Keywords

Arterioles, Retinal Vessels, Humans, Birth Weight, Methods, Blood Pressure, Aged, Infant, Newborn, Infant, Low Birth Weight, Male