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Early Hum Dev. 2006 Dec;82(12):803-10. Epub 2006 Oct 31.

Assessment and support of the preterm circulation.

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Department of Neonatal Medicine, RPA Women and Babies, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and University of Sydney, Camperdown, Sydney, NSW, Australia.


There are no clinical outcome data on which to base recommendations on how to assess and support the preterm circulation. Current standards are derived from an assumed proportionality between systemic and organ blood flow and mean blood pressure. Our study of central measures of systemic blood flow suggests preterm haemodynamics are more complex than this. Low systemic blood flow is common in the first 24 h after birth in very preterm babies and is not necessarily reflected by low blood pressure. The causes of this low systemic blood flow are complex but may relate to maladaptation to high extrauterine systemic (and sometimes pulmonary) vascular resistance. After day 1, hypotensive babies are more likely to have normal or high SBF reflecting vasodilatation. Empirically, inotropes that reduce afterload (such as dobutamine) may be more appropriate in the transitional period, while those with more vasoconstrictor actions (such as dopamine) may be more appropriate later on. Defining the haemodynamic in an individual baby needs both blood pressure and echocardiographic measures of systemic blood flow. Research in this area needs to move beyond just demonstrating changes in physiological variables to showing improvements in important clinical outcomes.

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