Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Children who were artificially conceived may face an increased risk of developing arterial hypertension and other cardiovascular complications early in life, according to a study.
Researchers studied the link between assisted reproductive technologies and high blood pressure, plaque build-up, blood vessel function and artery stiffness for adolescents over five years. Their findings were published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
About 1.7 percent of infants born in the United States are conceived using assisted reproductive technologies, which includes in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With this method, the gamete and embryo are exposed to a variety of environmental factors before implantation.
"The increased prevalence of arterial hypertension in ART participants is what is most concerning," lead author Dr. Emrush Rexhaj, director of arterial hypertension and altitude medicine at University Hospital in Bern, Switzerland, said in a press 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."
For the study, researchers assessed the ambulatory blood pressure, plaque build-up, blood vessel function and artery stiffness of 54 healthy ART adolescents and 43 adolescents born naturally, all with a mean age of 16. The body mass index, birth weight, gestational age, maternal BMI, smoking status and cardiovascular risk profile of all participants was similar, the researchers reported.
Through 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, researchers found that ART adolescents had a higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those born through natural conception -- 119/71 mmHg versus 115/69.
Also, eight of the ART adolescents reached the criteria for the diagnosis of arterial hypertension with numbers over 130/80. Only one of the control participants met the criteria.
Among ART participants, there was a 25 percent impairment of flow-mediated dilation of the brachial artery -- a sign of premature vascular aging. Also pulse-wave velocity and carotid intima-media thickness were increased.
These participants were also studied five years earlier when the arterial blood pressure between ART and control children was not different.
"It only took five years for differences in arterial blood pressure to show," Rexhaj said. "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."
Only single-birth children were studied, and the participants were recruited from one procreation center.
"Early study, detection and treatment of ART conceived individuals may be the appropriate course of preventative action," Dr. Larry A. Weinrauch, cardiologist at Mount Auburn Hospital, wrote in an accompanying editorial. "We need to be vigilant in the development of elevated blood pressure among children conceived through ART to implement early lifestyle-based modifications and, if necessary, pharmacotherapy."