Journal Article


Soume Bhattacharya, Patrick McNamara and Regan Giesinger

in Paediatrics & Child Health

Published on behalf of Canadian Paediatric Society

Volume 23, issue suppl_1 Published in print May 2018 | ISSN: 1205-7088
Published online May 2018 | e-ISSN: 1918-1485 | DOI:

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  • Neonatology
  • Primary Care
  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology


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Disseminated Herpes Simplex infection is a severe neonatal illness with high mortality and morbidity. Despite acyclovir treatment, the fulminant disease may be rapidly progressive and treatment is largely supportive. A significant proportion of neonates with this illness require intensive care support for circulatory insufficiency and hypoxic respiratory failure. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation may be used as rescue therapy, though mortality remains high. The pathophysiological contributors to the disease phenotype, the mechanisms underlying the hemodynamic instability and therapeutic strategies to treat such cardiovascular dysfunction have not been well described.


To describe patterns of cardiovascular dysfunction using targeted neonatal echocardiography and response to therapy for neonates with disseminated herpes infection in a quaternary neonatal intensive care unit.


A cohort of all neonates with confirmed disseminated herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection admitted over the period of November 2014- April 2017 were included in this study. All neonates were evaluated by comprehensive targeted neonatal echocardiography (TnECHO) assessment within the first 24h of admission. Demographic and clinical features were collected retrospectively from the electronic medical record. All TnECHO measurements were performed by a single expert operator. Ethical approval was obtained from the institutional ethics board.


Five neonates, 3 with HSV 1 and 2 with HSV 2, were identified during the study period. All had features of profound circulatory insufficiency such as hypotension, metabolic acidosis with high lactate, oliguria/anuria, poor capillary refill etc. Three neonates had severe oxygenation failure. On functional echocardiographic assessment, we found that all cases demonstrated underfilled cardiac chambers and low cardiac outputs suggesting severe vasodilatation and third space losses. These cases were managed by aggressive volume resuscitation and use of peripheral vasoconstrictors such as Vasopressin and Nor-Epinephrine. Primary ventricular dysfunction was identified in 3 neonates, who were treated with dobutamine and/or epinephrine. Significant pulmonary hypertension was detected in three infants which prompted the use of Inhaled Nitric Oxide. Acyclovir was initiated early on. Significant cardiovascular stabilization could be achieved by such targeted hemodynamic therapy. However, in view of extensive neurological and hepatic damage, life sustaining therapy was eventually withdrawn in all of them.


Cardiovascular dysfunction in neonates with disseminated HSV infection may be due to either primary ventricular dysfunction, vasodilatation and third space losses or due to pulmonary hypertension. Early targeted neonatal echocardiography may enhance physiologic definition and facilitate targeted therapy. Mortality from multisystem complications, however, remains universal, which raises the question of the role of ECMO in this population.

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Subjects: Neonatology ; Primary Care ; Child and Adolescent Psychiatry ; Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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