Effect of dexamethasone therapy on cerebral and ocular blood flow velocity in premature infants studied by colour Doppler flow imaging

Eur J Pediatr. 1997 Jan;156(1):41-6. doi: 10.1007/s004310050550.


Although dexamethasone (DEX) is used widely in neonates with chronic, and even recently with acute respiratory disease, its potential side-effects on human cerebral and ocular haemodynamics remain unknown. The effects of DEX on cerebral and ocular blood flow velocities were assessed in preterm infants with lung disease and mechanical ventilation. Ten ventilated preterm infants received DEX (0.25 mg/kg/12 h) for ongoing chronic lung disease or extubation failure. Colour Doppler flow imaging studies of the internal carotid, anterior cerebral and ophthalmic arteries were made before and 10, 30, 60, 120 and 240 min after the 1st, 3rd, and 5th doses of DEX. Peak systolic, temporal mean, and end-diastolic flow velocities and the resistance index (RI) of Pourcelot were determined. The brain was examined by ultrasonography before and at the end of each Doppler study. All patients were continuously monitored for transcutaneous blood gases and blood pressure. All flow velocities and the RI of the internal carotid, anterior cerebral and ophthalmic arteries showed a similar trend throughout the study. The means of the values averaged for the 240 min of cerebral and ocular blood flow velocity with each dose were progressively higher and the values of the RI progressively lower up to the 5th dose. The most significant changes occurred in end-diastolic flow velocity and consisted of a percentage increase between the 1st and 5th dose of 72% in the internal carotid artery, 102% in the anterior cerebral artery and 84% in the ophthalmic artery. Changes in arterial blood pressure followed a pattern similar to that of changes in blood flow velocity.

Conclusions: Dexamethasone increments cerebral and ocular blood flow velocity. We speculate that this finding may be relevant to the development of brain and retinal injury.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Blood Flow Velocity / drug effects
  • Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia / drug therapy*
  • Carotid Arteries / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Arteries / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects*
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology*
  • Dexamethasone / therapeutic use
  • Eye / blood supply*
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal
  • Male
  • Ophthalmic Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / drug therapy*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Color


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Dexamethasone