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Systolic blood pressure in babies of less than 32 weeks gestation in the first year of life
  1. Northern Neonatal Nursing Initiative
  1. Northern Neonatal Nursing Iniative
  1. Dr W Tin, Department of Paediatrics, South Cleveland Hospital, Middlesbrough TS4 3BW


AIM To define the normal range of systolic blood pressure in a non-selective population based sample of babies of low gestation throughout early infancy.

METHODS Daily measurements of systolic blood pressure were made in all the babies of less than 32 weeks gestation born in the North of England in 1990 and 1991 during the first 10 days of life. Additional measurements were obtained from 135 of these babies throughout the first year of life. Systolic pressure was measured by sensing arterial flow with a Doppler ultrasound probe. It was assumed that blood pressure had never been pathologically abnormal in the neonatal period if the child was alive and free from severe disability two years later. Data of adequate quality were available from 398 such children. Additional data were collected, for comparative purposes, from 123 babies of 32, 36, or 40 weeks of gestation.

RESULTS Systolic pressure correlated with weight and gestation at birth, and rose progressively during the first 10 days of life. The coefficient of variation did not vary with gestational or postnatal age (mean value 17%), the relation with gestation being closer than with birthweight. Systolic pressure rose 20% during the first 10 days from an initial mean of 42 mm Hg in babies of 24 weeks gestation, and by 42% from an initial mean of 48 mm Hg in babies of 31 weeks gestation. These findings were not altered by the exclusion of data from 14 babies who had inotropic support during this time. Simultaneous measurements in three centres using an oscillometric technique revealed that this technique tended to overestimate systolic pressure when this was below average. Systolic pressure finally stabilised at a mean of 92 (95% CI 72-112) mm Hg at a postconceptional age of 44–48 weeks irrespective of gestation at birth.

CONCLUSION Systolic blood pressure 4–24 hours after birth was less than gestational age (in weeks) in only 3% of non-disabled long term survivors. Systolic pressure rose with increasing gestation and increasing postnatal age, but stabilised some six weeks after term, regardless of gestation at birth.

  • systolic blood pressure
  • early infancy
  • gestation
  • birthweight

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