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Neonatology. 2013;104(1):28-33. doi: 10.1159/000350017. Epub 2013 Apr 25.

Adrenal function in preterm infants undergoing patent ductus arteriosus ligation.

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Department of Paediatrics, Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.



Targeted milrinone treatment for low left ventricular output (LVO) reduces the incidence of acute cardiorespiratory instability following ligation of patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) in preterm infants. Despite this, some infants continue to experience postoperative deterioration. Adrenal insufficiency related to prematurity has been postulated as a possible mechanism.


To describe adrenal function in premature infants undergoing PDA ligation and to investigate its association with pre- and postoperative clinical and echocardiography-derived indices of disease severity.


A retrospective cohort study was conducted over a 2-year period on infants who underwent PDA ligation and had preoperative adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation. All infants were screened by echocardiography for low LVO at 1 h after surgery and treated with intravenous milrinone if LVO <200 ml/kg/min. The primary outcome evaluated was low LVO at 1 h after surgery. Secondary outcomes included hypotension and oxygenation and ventilation failure occurring within 24 h.


A total of 35 infants at a median gestation of 25.4 (24.5-26.4) weeks and weight at birth of 700 (600-810) g were included. Baseline median cortisol measured preoperatively was 202 (137-403) nmol/l. Following the ACTH stimulation test, 3 infants had cortisol ≤500 nmol/l while 15 had ≤750 nmol/l. There was no association seen between any cortisol value and low LVO postoperatively. Post-ACTH cortisol ≤750 nmol/l was significantly associated with hypotension (p = 0.03) and oxygenation (p = 0.04) and ventilation (p = 0.008) failure. Receiver-operator characteristic curve showed a high predictive value of post-ACTH cortisol for all clinical outcomes.


Post-ACTH cortisol (≤750 nmol/l) may be associated with clinical indices of postoperative cardiorespiratory instability. Relative adrenal insufficiency may play a role in the etiology of post-PDA ligation hemodynamic and respiratory instability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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