• Atherosclerosis;
  • growth retardation;
  • risk and protective factors


Background: Intimal thickening is considered to be an early manifestation of developing atherosclerosis in healthy young adults and children. Low birthweight correlates with increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases. Aim: To test the hypothesis that low birthweight is associated with relatively thickened intima at birth. Methods: The coronary arteries of 175 children were screened from serial cross-sections for maximal intimal thickening and measured morphometrically. The area of intima and media and the length of internal elastic lamina were measured. The intimal to medial area ratio and calculated thicknesses of intima were used in statistical comparisons. Only children who died within 30 d after birth (n=111) were included. Results: There was a significant positive correlation between intimal thickness and birthweight in low-birthweight children (p <0.006). Neither the relative thickness of the intima nor the ratio of intimal to medial area increased with increasing growth restriction. The sum of the thicknesses of arterial media and intima had a significant positive correlation with birthweight in these infants.

Conclusion: Intimal thickness present at birth in small-for-date children does not seem to be an aetiological factor for the increased risk of coronary heart disease later in life.