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Cardiac effects of short course dexamethasone in preterm infants
  1. R Skeltona,
  2. A B Gilla,
  3. J M Parsonsb
  1. aPeter Congden Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, D Floor Clarendon Wing, Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds, LS2 9NS, bKillingbeck Hospital Leeds
  1. Dr R Skelton Hull Maternity Hospital, Hedon Road, Hull HU9 5LX.


AIM To examine the incidence and natural history of left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) associated with the shorter 2–3 week course of dexamethasone, now more usual, for chronic lung disease.

METHOD Thirty one infants, gestational age 23–34 (median 26) weeks, birthweight 500–2054 (median 815)g, received dexamethasone, starting at 0.4–0.6 mg/kg/day, at a median of 11 days of age (range 2–34), weaning over a period of 2–3 weeks. Eighteen preterm neonates were studied as controls over a similar time period. Serial echocardiographic measurements of end diastolic interventricular septum (IVSd) and left ventricular posterior wall (LVPWd) thicknesses were taken before, and up to 48 days after, starting dexamethasone. Maximum Doppler blood flow velocities from the left ventricular outflow tract (LVOT) were measured.

RESULTS Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) occurred in 29 babies (94%). Median hypertrophy of the IVSd in those receiving dexamethasone was 67% and LVPWd 56% of baseline measurements, significantly greater than control infants (p<0.001). LVH appeared by a median of three days, peaking by a median of 10 days. All resolved by a median of 27 days. LVOT obstruction was not seen. There was no significant correlation with birthweight, gestation, blood pressure, or glucose tolerance.

CONCLUSIONS LVH developed in almost all preterm neonates receiving a 2–3 week course of dexamethasone, but was of little clinical importance and always resolved. Echocardiography is probably not required routinely in infants receiving such short course dexamethasone for chronic lung disease.

  • dexamethasone
  • chronic lung disease
  • left ventricular hypertrophy
  • echocardiography

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