Sildenafil administration improves right ventricular function on 4D flow MRI in young adults born premature

Philip A. Corrado, Gregory P. Barton, Christopher J. Francois, Oliver Wieben, Kara N. Goss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Extreme preterm birth conveys an elevated risk of heart failure by young adulthood. Smaller biventricular chamber size, diastolic dysfunction, and pulmonary hypertension may contribute to reduced ventricular-vascular coupling. However, how hemodynamic manipulations may affect right ventricular (RV) function and coupling remains unknown. As a pilot study, 4D flow MRI was used to assess the effect of afterload reduction and heart rate reduction on cardiac hemodynamics and function. Young adults born premature were administered sildenafil (a pulmonary vasodilator) and metoprolol (a b blocker) on separate days, and MRI with 4D flow completed before and after each drug administration. Endpoints include cardiac index (CI), direct flow fractions, and ventricular kinetic energy including E/A wave kinetic energy ratio. Sildenafil resulted in a median CI increase of 0.24 L/min/m2 (P = 0.02), mediated through both an increase in heart rate (HR) and stroke volume. Although RV ejection fraction improved only modestly, there was a significant increase (4% of end diastolic volume) in RV direct flow fraction (P = 0.04), consistent with hemodynamic improvement. Metoprolol administration resulted in a 5-beats/min median decrease in HR (P = 0.01), a 0.37 L/min/m2 median decrease in CI (P = 0.04), and a reduction in time-averaged kinetic energy (KE) in both ventricles (P < 0.01), despite increased RV diastolic E/A KE ratio (P = 0.04). Despite reduced right atrial workload, metoprolol significantly depressed overall cardiac systolic function. Sildenafil, however, increased CI and improved RV function, as quantified by the direct flow fraction. The preterm heart appears dependent on HR but sensitive to RV afterload manipulations. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We assessed the effect of right ventricular afterload reduction with sildenafil and heart rate reduction with metoprolol on cardiac hemodynamics and function in young adults born premature using 4D flow MRI. Metoprolol depressed cardiac function, whereas sildenafil improved cardiac function including right ventricular direct flow fraction by 4D flow, consistent with hemodynamic improvement. This suggests that the preterm heart is dependent on heart rate and sensitive to right ventricular afterload changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H2295-H2304
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • 4D flow MRI
  • Metoprolol
  • Preterm birth
  • Right ventricle
  • Sildenafil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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