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Echocardiographic Assessment of Right Ventricular Afterload in Preterm Infants: Maturational Patterns of Pulmonary Artery Acceleration Time Over the First Year of Age and Implications for Pulmonary Hypertension

Patel, M. D.; Breatnach, C. R.; James, A. T.; Choudhry, S.; McNamara, P. J.; Jain, A.; Franklin, O.; Hamvas, A.; Mertens, L.; Singh, G. K.; El-Khuffash, A.; Levy, P. T.

J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2019 Jul 6; 32(7):884-894.e4


BACKGROUND: Assessment of pulmonary hemodynamics is critical in the diagnosis and management of cardiopulmonary disease of premature infants, but reliable noninvasive indices of pulmonary hemodynamics in preterm infants are lacking. Because pulmonary artery acceleration time (PAAT) is a validated noninvasive method to assess right ventricular (RV) afterload in infants and children, the aim of this study was to investigate the maturational changes of PAAT measures in preterm infants over the first year of age and to discern the impact of typical cardiopulmonary abnormalities on these measures. METHODS: In a prospective multicenter study of 239 preterm infants (<29 weeks at birth), PAAT was assessed at days 1, 2, and 5 to 7, at 32 and 36 weeks' postmenstrual age, and at 1-year corrected age. To account for heart rate variability, PAAT was adjusted for RV ejection time. Premature infants who developed bronchopulmonary dysplasia or had echocardiographic findings of pulmonary hypertension were analyzed separately. Intra- and interobserver reproducibility analysis was performed. RESULTS: PAAT was feasible in 95% of the image acquisitions, and there was high intra- and interobserver agreement (intraclass correlation coefficients > 0.9 and coefficients of variation < 6%). In uncomplicated preterm infants (n = 103 [48%]) PAAT and PAAT adjusted for RV ejection time increased longitudinally from birth to 1-year corrected age (P < .001) and were linearly associated with gestational age at birth (r = 0.81 and r = 0.82, P < .001) and increasing postnatal weight and postnatal age (r > 0.81, P < .001). PAAT measures were significantly reduced (P < .001) in infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia and/or pulmonary hypertension (n = 119 [51%]) beyond 1 week of age. CONCLUSIONS: PAAT measures increase in preterm infants from birth to 1-year corrected age, reflective of the physiologic postnatal drop in RV afterload. Bronchopulmonary dysplasia and pulmonary hypertension have a negative impact on PAAT measures. By demonstrating excellent reliability and establishing reference patterns of PAAT in preterm infants, this study suggests that PAAT and PAAT adjusted for RV ejection time can be used as complementary parameters to assess physiologic and pathologic changes in pulmonary hemodynamics in neonates.

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