Preterm Birth Tied to Higher Risk for Obstructive Airway Disease in Adulthood

Higher risk extends to those born late preterm and early term, and infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

THURSDAY, April 20, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Preterm birth is a risk factor for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adulthood, according to a study published online March 29 in the European Respiratory Journal.

Anna Pulakka, Ph.D., from the University of Oulu in Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues used data from national registers (706,717 people born 1987 to 1998 in Finland [4.8 percent preterm] and 1.67 million born 1967 to 1999 in Norway [5.0 percent preterm]) to examine the association between gestational ages and obstructive airway disease at ages 18 to 50 years.

The researchers found that odds of any obstructive airway disease in adulthood were twofold to threefold greater for those born before 28 weeks or 28 to 31 completed weeks versus individuals born full-term (39 to 41 completed weeks). Results persisted in adjusted analyses. The odds were 1.1- to 1.5-fold higher for individuals born at 32 to 33, 34 to 36, or 37 to 38 weeks. Similar findings were seen for both countries (Finland and Norway) and age groups (18 to 29 and 30 to 50 years). For those born before 28 weeks, the odds of COPD at age 30 to 50 years were 7.44 times higher compared with 3.18 times higher for those born at 28 to 31 weeks and 2.32 times higher for those born at 32 to 33 weeks. Preterm birth plus bronchopulmonary dysplasia in infancy further increased the odds of obstructive airway disease in adulthood.

"In these groups, the excess risks are clinically significant and call for particular diagnostic vigilance when individuals born preterm present with respiratory symptoms," the authors write.

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