Contribution of superior vena caval flow to total cardiac output in children: A Doppler echocardiographic study

Mubadda A. Salim, Thomas G. DiSessa, Kristopher L. Arheart, Bruce S. Alpert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Background. After a cavopulmonary anastomosis, the superior vena caval flow, by virtue of being the effective pulmonary blood flow, is the most important factor influencing the systemic arterial saturation. Determination of the amount of this blood flow will allow a hotter understanding of the physiology of the circulation after this anastomosis. The purposes of this study were to determine the volumetric flow in the superior vena cava and to evaluate its contribution to the cardiac output as children grow. Methods and Results. Using two-dimensional and Doppler echocardiography, we measured the diameter of and mean flow velocities in the superior venae cavae and the pulmonary arteries of 145 healthy children. We calculated the volumetric flow in each vessel and determined the ratio of superior vena caval flow to total cardiac output. Cardiac output and superior vena caval flow increased with increasing age and body surface area. The superior vena caval flow accounted for 49% of cardiac output in newborn infants. This contribution increased to a maximum of 55% at the age of 2.5 years. Afterward, there was a slow decline in the ratio of superior vena caval-pulmonary arterial flow; it reached the adult value of 35% by 6.6 years of age. Conclusions. There is a maturational change in the superior vena caval contribution to total cardiac output in children. This is most likely related to somatic growth and changes in body segment proportions. This flow maturation may explain the higher systemic saturation in infants compared with older children after cavopulmonary anastomosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1860-1865
Number of pages6
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 1995


  • cardiac output
  • circulation
  • echocardiography
  • hemodynamics
  • regional blood flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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