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Eur J Pediatr. 2001 Oct;160(10):633-9.

Position dependent changes of cerebral blood flow velocities in premature infants.

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Department of Paediatrics, University Hospital of Vienna, Austria.


The supine or prone positioning of infants has been a cause of much controversy. Recently it has been postulated that the position dependent hypoperfusion of the brainstem represents a possible cause of sudden infant death. To demonstrate position dependency and maturational changes of cerebral perfusion in premature newborn infants we investigated cerebral blood flow velocities (CBFV) in the main supratentorial and brainstem cerebral arteries. Measurements of CBFV were done with transfontanellar colour-coded Doppler sonography in the internal carotid artery (ICA), basilar artery (BA), and vertebral artery (VA) in the prone (head centered-baseline) and supine positions (maximal rotation to both sides) in 23 premature infants aged between 3-5 days of life. We performed follow-up measurements in 17 infants 7-10 days later and in 16 infants at the corrected age of 1 month. There was no difference in mean CBFVs between the prone and supine position at the first investigation. At the third investigation, CBFVs were significantly higher in the supine compared to the prone position. The CBFVs of the ICA were higher than in the BA and VA. This difference was not influenced by the body position but increased with post-natal age more in the VA (159%) than in the BA (129%) and ICA (128%). Position dependency was not seen in the ICA perfusion. In the prone position, five infants showed an incomplete steal effect in the contralateral VA. There was no significant side difference in the CBFVs of the ICA and VA, but in the resistance indices in the VA (left > right).


in premature newborns, position dependent changes of cerebral blood flow velocity develop with maturation and are most pronounced in the vertebrobasilar system. These changes are possibly due to compression of the vertebral artery by neck movement and suggest an individual risk of brainstem perfusion deficits that may be aggravated with age and head rotation in a prone position.

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