Background: Data from cross-sectional and short-term longitudinal studies have suggested that children infected with HIV-1 might have cardiovascular abnormalities. We aimed to investigate this hypothesis in a long-term cohort study. Methods: We measured cardiovascular function every 4-6 months for up to 5 years in a birth cohort of 600 infants born to women infected with HIV-1. We included 93 infants infected with HIV-1 and 463 uninfected infants (internal controls) from the same cohort. We also included a cross-sectionally measured comparison group of 195 healthy children born to mothers who were not infected with HIV-1 (external controls). Findings: Children infected with HIV-1 had a significantly higher heart rate at all ages (mean difference 10 bpm, 95% CI 8-13) than internal controls. At birth, both cohort groups of children had similar low left ventricular (LV) fractional shortening. At 8 months, fractional shortening was similar in internal and external controls, whereas in children infected with HIV-1, fractional shortening remained significantly lower than in controls for the first 20 months of life (mean difference from internal controls at 8 months 3.7%, 2.3-5.1). LV mass was similar at birth in both cohort groups, but became significantly higher in children with HIV-1 from 4-30 months (mean difference 2.4 g at 8 months, 0.9-3.9). Conclusions: Vertically-transmitted HIV-1 infection is associated with persistent cardiovascular abnormalities identifiable shortly after birth. Irrespective of their HIV-1 status, infants born to women infected with HIV-1 have significantly worse cardiac function than other infants, suggesting that the uterine environment has an important role in postnatal cardiovascular abnormalities.
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