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Haemodynamically unstable preterm infant: an unresolved management conundrum


While extremely low-birthweight infants are at a higher risk of haemodynamic instability, management strategies can be highly variable and may lack scientific validation. The aetiology of cardiovascular compromise can be diverse. Volume replacements, cardiotropes (dobutamine, dopamine, epinephrine and milrinone) and hydrocortisone supplementation are common interventions. Most often, therapy is driven by protocol, is based on poorly validated clinical information or is based on the premise that “one therapy fits all”. A physiology-driven approach is most needed during transition from intrauterine to extrauterine life surrounding preterm birth, when rapid changes in cardiovascular adaptation occur. The physiologically important determinants of neonatal haemodynamics include cardiac output and systemic vascular resistance, blood pressure, as well as individual organ vascular resistances and blood flows. Three key variables with impact on neonatal haemodynamics, haemodynamically significant ductus arteriosus, systemic blood flow and left ventricular afterload, as well as related therapeutic dilemmas are addressed. Among the novel technologies and approaches presently available, targeted neonatal echocardiography performed by the clinician, used in conjunction with the clinical context, has the potential to better define pathophysiology. A framework for physiology-driven care is proposed, which has the potential to optimize care.

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Conflicts of interest

The author has no financial relationship with the organization that sponsored the research.

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Correspondence to Arvind Sehgal.

Additional information

The author has more than 6 years of experience in targeted neonatal echocardiography and has been awarded the Certificate in Clinician Performed Ultrasound by the Australasian Society for Ultrasound in Medicine.

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Sehgal, A. Haemodynamically unstable preterm infant: an unresolved management conundrum. Eur J Pediatr 170, 1237 (2011).

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  • Hypotension
  • Management
  • Newborn