Growth attainment in German children born preterm, and cardiovascular risk factors in adolescence. Analysis of the population representative KiGGS data

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To compare the growth attainment of preterm children and their cardiovascular risk factors at adolescence with the values measured in term children in Germany.


About 17,641 children aged 0 to <18 years were studied between 2003 and 2006 in the population representative German KiGGS survey (“German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents”) using questionnaires, physical examinations, standardized anthropometric and blood pressure measurements, and blood sample analyses. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was employed for the analyses of anthropometric parameters.


About 11.8% of the 16,737 children with complete and valid data had been born preterm. After adjustment for covariates the estimated z-scores over the total age range were larger in term compared to preterm children for length/height (P<0.001; estimated difference B=0.277, 95% CI 0.191-0.362), head circumference (P<0.001; B=0.238, 95% CI 0.144-0.333), BMI (P=0.001; B=0.160, 95% CI 0.069-0.252), and skinfold thickness (P=0.220; B=0.058, 95% CI -0.035 to 0.151). The onset of pubertal development was slightly (but not significantly) earlier in term compared to preterm children. At 14 to <18 years, anthropometric and biochemical indicators of cardiovascular diseases were not worse in preterm compared to term children.


Preterm-born German adolescents remained significantly shorter, lighter, and had a smaller head circumference than term-born adolescents, but the risk indicators for cardiovascular diseases were not higher.

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