BACKGROUND: Experimental and clinical studies show that prematurity leads to altered left ventricular (LV) structure and function with preserved resting LV ejection fraction (EF). Large-scale epidemiological data now links prematurity to increased early heart failure risk. OBJECTIVES: The authors performed echocardiographic imaging at prescribed exercise intensities to determine whether preterm-born adults have impaired LV functional response to physical exercise. METHODS: We recruited 101 normotensive young adults born preterm (n = 47; mean gestational age 32.8 ± 3.2 weeks) and term (n = 54) for detailed cardiovascular phenotyping. Full clinical resting and exercise stress echocardiograms were performed, with apical 4-chamber views collected while exercising at 40%, 60%, and 80% of peak exercise capacity, determined by maximal cardiopulmonary exercise testing. RESULTS: Preterm-born individuals had greater LV mass (p = 0.015) with lower peak systolic longitudinal strain (p = 0.038) and similar EF to term-born control subjects at rest (p = 0.62). However, by 60% exercise intensity, EF was 6.7% lower in preterm subjects (71.9 ± 8.7% vs 78.6 ± 5.4%; p = 0.004) and further declined to 7.3% below the term-born group at 80% exercise intensity (69.8 ± 6.4% vs 77.1 ± 6.3%; p = 0.004). Submaximal cardiac output reserve was 56% lower in preterm-born subjects versus term-born control subjects at 40% of peak exercise capacity (729 ± 1,162 ml/min/m2 vs. 1,669 ± 937 ml/min/m2; p = 0.021). LV length and resting peak systolic longitudinal strain predicted EF increase from rest to 60% exercise intensity in the preterm group (r = 0.68, p = 0.009 and r = 0.56, p = 0.031, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: Preterm-born young adults had impaired LV response to physiological stress when subjected to physical exercise, which suggested a reduced myocardial functional reserve that might help explain their increased risk of early heart failure. (Young Adult Cardiovascular Health sTudy [YACHT]; NCT02103231).
J Am Coll Cardiol
1347 - 1356
cardiac function, echocardiography, ejection fraction, heart failure, myocardial reserve, premature, preterm