Objectives: We sought to describe the hospital management and early outcome of critically ill infants presenting with large ventricular septal defects and pneumonia requiring mechanical ventilation at a referral center in a developing country. Infants with large ventricular septal defects who have pneumonia might present with respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation. In the developing world this presentation is relatively common, but few data exist describing patient management strategies. Methods: Hospital data of consecutive infants admitted with large ventricular septal defects and pneumonia requiring mechanical ventilation were reviewed and analyzed. Results: We identified 18 infants (mean age, 3.6 ± 3.0 months). On admission, all the infants were significantly malnourished, and echocardiography showed bidirectional shunting (predominantly right-to-left shunting) in 6 infants. Thirteen (72%) patients improved with intensive medical management that included mechanical ventilation for 1 to 16 days (median, 6.5 days); unequivocal left-to-right shunting was subsequently documented by means of echocardiography in all 13 patients. Twelve patients underwent surgical repair, and 11 (91.6%) were discharged after median mechanical ventilation of 100 hours (range, 42-240 hours) and intensive care unit stay of 8 days (range, 4-15 days). Five of 6 unoperated patients died, 4 of them within a few hours of admission. One child with multiple ventricular septal defects was discharged and subsequently underwent pulmonary artery banding. Conclusion: Corrective cardiac surgery for selected critically ill infants with large ventricular septal defects, severe malnutrition, and pneumonia requiring mechanical ventilation is feasible and should be considered a viable management strategy.
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