Diagnosis of haemodynamically significant patent ductus arteriosus in neonates - Is the ECG of diagnostic help?
The presence of a haemodynamically significant patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) in the premature newborn may contribute to the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia, intraventricular haemorrhage and necrotising enterocolitis. It is therefore essential that the diagnosis of such a PDA be made in time in order to intervene medically or surgically. Echocardiography is at present the prime diagnostic tool, but is mainly available in tertiary hospitals. Chest roentgenography is of little diagnostic value especially in the presence of respiratory disease, which is often present in premature babies. Very little is known about the diagnostic value of the electrocardiogram (ECG) in premature babies. The aim of this study was to describe the standard 12-lead ECG findings in low-birth-weight babies with haemodynamically significant PDAs. Thirty-two babies with haemodynamically significant PDAs, as established by echocardiography, were included in the study. Standard 12-lead ECGs were done in all these babies. In 15 patients ECG abnormalities were found; only 22% had left atrial and left ventricular enlargement indicative of significant left-to-right shunting, while 78% had no ECG changes indicative of left-to-right shunting. In conclusion, the ECG cannot be used to identify haemodynamically significant PDAs.