Low Birth Weight Infants Do Not Have Capillary Rarefaction at Birth
Implications for Early Life Influence on Microcirculation
Low birth weight predicts adult essential hypertension and is linked to increased cardiovascular mortality in adult life. A reduction in capillary density (ie, rarefaction) is a hallmark of essential hypertension, and evidence suggests that rarefaction precedes the onset of the rise in blood pressure, because it is found in normotensive individuals at high risk of developing hypertension, suggesting that rarefaction is likely to be a primary structural abnormality. We hypothesized that low birth weight infants would have significant capillary rarefaction at birth. We studied 44 low birth weight infants born to normotensive mothers (33 were born preterm, birth weight: 1823±446 g; and 11 were born at term, birth weight: 2339±177 g) and compared them with 71 infants born at term with normal weight (birth weight: 3333±519 g). We used orthogonal polarized spectroscopy to measure basal (ie, functional) and maximal (ie, structural) skin capillary densities. Low birth weight infants, whether born preterm or at term, had significantly higher functional capillary density (mean difference of 10.5 capillaries per millimeter squared; 95% CI: 6.6–14.4 capillaries per millimeter squared; P<0.0001) and higher structural capillary density (mean difference of 11.1 capillaries per millimeter squared; 95% CI: 7.6–14.5 capillaries per millimeter squared; P<0.0001) when compared with normal weight term infants. We conclude that low birth weight infants born to normotensive mothers do not have capillary rarefaction at birth. These results contradict what might have been predicted from the concept of the intrauterine origins of adult disease and suggest that microcirculatory abnormalities observed in individuals of low birth weight occur in postnatal life rather than during their intrauterine existence.
- Received July 4, 2011.
- Revision received July 22, 2011.
- Accepted September 6, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.