A volumetric Doppler technique was used to measure net ductus arteriosus shunt during the first 48 hours of life in 30 infants of less than 33 weeks' gestation, and in 10 full term infants. In the full term infants a left to right shunt of 62 ml/kg/minute (95% confidence limits 43-82) shortly after birth decreased rapidly over the first 12 hours and was not measurable by 48 hours. The preterm infants had smaller left to right shunts shortly after birth--49 ml/kg/minute (95% confidence limits 38-59). There was no obvious subsequent change in the mean shunt, although by 48 hours there was greater variation in the size of the shunt. The respiratory distress syndrome did not affect the size of the ductal shunt, but the shorter the gestation period the larger the shunt by 48 hours. A ductal flow of greater than 70 ml/kg/minute at 48 hours of age predicted the subsequent development of a ductal murmur with 75% sensitivity and 100% specificity.
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