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Which to measure, systemic or organ blood flow? Middle cerebral artery and superior vena cava flow in very preterm infants
  1. N Evans1,
  2. M Kluckow2,
  3. M Simmons1,
  4. D Osborn1
  1. 1Department of Neonatal Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Department of Neonatal Medicine, Royal North Shore Hospital and University of Sydney
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Evans, Department of Neonatal Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, Sydney, NSW 2050, Australia;


Aim: To describe, in very preterm babies, postnatal changes in measures of middle cerebral artery (MCA) Doppler variables. To relate these peripheral measures to echocardiographic measures of systemic blood flow and ductal shunting, and to study their relation to subsequent intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH).

Methods: 126 babies born before 30 weeks were studied with serial echocardiography and cerebral and Doppler ultrasound of the MCA at 5, 12, 24, and 48 hours of age. Echocardiographic measures included superior vena cava (SVC) flow and colour Doppler diameter of the ductal shunt. MCA Doppler measures included mean velocity, pulsatility index (PI), and estimated colour Doppler diameter.

Results: MCA mean velocity increased whereas the PI decreased significantly over the first 48 hours. Babies with low SVC flow had significantly lower MCA mean velocity and estimated diameter than babies with normal SVC flow. There was no difference in PI. On multivariant analysis, the significant associations with MCA mean velocity were mean blood pressure (MBP), heart rate, SVC flow, and lower calculated vascular resistance. The significant associations with PI were larger ductal diameter and lower mean MBP. The significant associations with MCA diameter were higher SVC flow and lower calculated vascular resistance. After controlling for gestation, there was a highly significant association between lowest SVC flow and subsequent IVH but no association between IVH and lowest MCA mean velocity, estimated diameter, PI, or MBP.

Conclusions: These data are consistent with the speculation that SVC flow is a reflection of cerebral blood flow. Low SVC flow is more strongly associated with subsequent IVH than cerebral artery Doppler measures or MBP.

  • blood flow
  • middle cerebral artery
  • superior vena cava
  • intraventricular haemorrhage
  • PI, pulsatility index
  • SVC, superior vena cava
  • IVH, intraventricular haemorrhage
  • MCA, middle cerebral artery
  • MBP, mean blood pressure

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