The contribution of abnormal cardiac function to hypotension and metabolic acidosis, which affect approximately 40% of ventilated very low birthweight infants in the first 24 hours after birth was assessed using M mode, two dimensional, and Doppler echocardiography in 75 very low birthweight infants during the first few hours after birth. Thirty four infants whose blood pressure was less than the 10th centile or who had a metabolic acidosis in the first 24 hours were compared with 41 who showed neither feature. The median shortening fraction was significantly lower in the hypotensive/acidotic (shocked) group than in the controls. In 16 of 34 (47%) shocked infants left ventricular contractility and output were significantly worse than in the control subjects. One and five minute Apgar scores were also significantly lower in the shock group when compared with controls. Cardiac dysfunction was an important feature in the shocked very low birthweight infants. It is speculated that volume expansion may not always be the most appropriate first line treatment for such infants.
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