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Children born from ART at increased risk of developing arterial hypertension

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This finding may portend hypertension risk for other ART populations

Clinicians should be vigilant in detecting early cardiovascular problems in children born from ART, Larry A. Weinrauch, MD, of Harvard Medical School, Boston, and his colleagues wrote in a joint editorial comment. While the sixfold higher risk of arterial hypertension was obtained from an ambulatory blood pressure monitoring that was not repeated, the relative risk of cardiovascular problems for singleton births could be a sign that a greater risk for vascular aging exists with multiple births.

“This observation, derived from a relatively small cohort, may actually understate the importance of this problem for ART populations because higher risk populations for development of hypertension (e.g., multiple birth pregnancies) and those resulting from maternal factors of excess risk (e.g., eclampsia, chronic hypertension, diabetes, obesity) were excluded from the study,” Dr. Weinrauch and his colleagues said.

The authors cited the pediatric hypertension clinical practice guidelines of annual in-office hypertension screening after 3 years of age and noted that certain high-risk groups, such as patients with repaired aortic coarctation and chronic kidney disease, should be screened “at every health encounter.

“If adolescent hypertension risk is really sixfold higher in ART patients (and potentially subsequent generations), consequences for longevity will be vast given the millions of patients whose births were achieved by using ART methods,” wrote Dr. Weinrauch and his colleagues. “Early study, detection, and treatment of ART-conceived individuals may be the appropriate ounce of prevention.”

Dr. Weinrauch is with Harvard Medical School, Marie D. Gerhard-Herman, MD, is with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Michael M. Mendelson, MD, is with Boston Children’s Hospital, all in Boston. These comments summarize their editorial in response to Meister et al. (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018 Sep 3. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2018.07.013). Dr. Gerhard-Herman is supported by the Progeria Research Foundation and Dr. Mendelson is supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. They reported no other relevant conflicts of interest.



Children born from assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection may be at risk of developing arterial hypertension due to premature vascular aging, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

IVF ©ktsimage/

In a previous study, Emrush Rexhaj, MD, director of arterial hypertension and altitude medicine at Inselspital, University Hospital, Bern, Switzerland, and his colleagues assessed vascular function in participants who were born with assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI); the investigators found vascular dysfunction in this patient population not “related to parental factors but to the ART procedure itself,” they said.

Dr. Rexhaj and his colleagues then reassessed vascular function in 54 participants (mean age 16.5 years old) who returned from the previous study 5 years after the initial assessment and compared the results with 43 matched patients in a control group (mean age, 17.4 years). There were no significant differences regarding body mass index, lipid, creatinine, electrolyte plasma concentrations, high-sensitive C-reactive protein, birth weight, and gestational age between children in either group, as well as no significant differences in maternal BMI, cardiovascular risk profile, and smoking status.

The investigators – with Théo A. Meister, MD, also of the university, as a joint lead author with Dr. Rexhaj – performed blinded endothelium-dependent and endothelium­-independent vasodilation of the brachial artery in a supine position at room temperature and after 15 minutes of rest. They also measured carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), large artery stiffness, 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, and short-term blood pressure variability.

“It only took five years for differences in arterial blood pressure to show,” Dr. Rexhaj stated in a press release. “This is a rapidly growing population and apparently healthy children are showing serious signs of concern for early cardiovascular risk, especially when it comes to arterial hypertension.”

Specifically, there was an approximately 25% reduction in flow-mediated dilation in the ART group (7%) compared with the control group (9%), which the investigators attributed to endothelial dysfunction (P less than .001). In ART patients, carotid IMT (463 mm) and carotid pulse-wave velocity (7.7 m/s) was significantly increased, compared with carotid IMT (435 mm; P less than .01) and pulse-wave velocity (7.2 m/s; P equals .033) in the control group.

With regard to arterial hypertension, 24-hour systolic blood pressure in the ART group (120 mm Hg) was “markedly” higher than in the control group (116 mm Hg; P equals .02); 24-hour diastolic blood pressure was also significantly higher in the ART group (71 mm Hg) compared with the control group (69 mm Hg; P equals .03). Investigators noted 8 of the 52 patients (15%) in the ART group met clinical criteria for arterial hypertension according to ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, compared with 1 of the 40 patients (2%) in the control group.

“The increased prevalence of arterial hypertension in ART participants is what is most concerning,” Dr. Rexhaj stated in the release. “There is growing evidence that ART alters the blood vessels in children, but the long-term consequences were not known. We now know that this places ART children at a six times higher rate of hypertension than children conceived naturally.”

The investigators cited as a limitation the fact that they studied only children born from singleton births recruited from a single center, which may have a lower cardiovascular risk profile than other patient populations.

This study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Placide Nicod Foundation, the Swiss Society of Hypertension, the Swiss Society of Cardiology and Mach-Gaensslen Stiftung (Schweiz). The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Meister TA et al. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018 Sep 3. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2018.06.060.

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