This study aimed to examine the early natural history of ductal shunting in ventilated preterm infants (< 1500 g) and to document the association between this shunting and respiratory outcomes. The size of the ductal shunt was assessed in 48 infants using serial echocardiographic measurement of colour Doppler internal ductal diameter and pulsed Doppler postductal aortic diastolic flow (PADF). At all postnatal ages, normal antegrade PADF was invariably seen when the ductal diameter was 1.5 mm or less, and was usually abnormal (absent or retrograde) when more than 1.5 mm. Longitudinal progress of ductal diameter fell into three groups: (i) asymptomatic spontaneous closure (n = 31)--in 20 of these infants closure occurred within 48 hours; (ii) symptomatic PDA which enlarged after a postnatal constriction (n = 9); and (iii) symptomatic PDA that showed minimal postnatal constriction (n = 8). Infants in group 2 were significantly less mature and had PDAs which became symptomatic significantly later than those in group 3. Logistic regression showed that ductal shunting had a significant correlation with mean oxygenation index over the first five days but not with ventilator or oxygen days. Gestation had the most significant association with the latter two variables, with atrial shunting also being related to days in oxygen. The preterm duct displays a wide spectrum of postnatal constrictive activity. Symptomatic PDAs usually showed slower early postnatal constriction. Ductal shunting independently related to short term but not long term respiratory outcomes.
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