Transcutaneous-PO2 monitoring for detection of exercise-induced right-to-left shunts in children with congenital heart defects: A case report


D Holmgren, Department of Paediatrics, Division of Cardiology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, SE-416 85 Göteborg, Sweden (Tel+46 343 4000, fax. +46 31 845 029, e-mail:


A 2-y-old boy with scimitar syndrome underwent surgery involving the redirection of partial anomalous pulmonary venous return to the left atrium. Heart catheterization after the operation did not reveal any significant intra-cardiac shunts. An exercise test performed at the age of 10 y revealed a reduction in working capacity. At the age of 12 y, the patient became unconscious and experienced seizures during heavy physical exercise. EEG and Holter ECG examinations were normal. In a second exercise test, a fall in transcutaneous PO2 was demonstrated at the start of the test. A new heart catheterization revealed communication between the inferior vena cava and the left atrium owing to a misplaced patch. No right-to-left shunt was found at rest, probably as a result of drainage of the inferior vena cava to the superior vena cava by the azygous vein. An exercise test after re-operation revealed normal conditions.

Conclusion: Haemodynamic studies during heart catheterization in children are usually performed at rest. This could result in exercise-induced right-to-left-shunts being overlooked. The use of PtcO2 monitoring during exercise tests is a non-invasive means of exposing these shunts.