The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of left-to-right shunting on the resting energy expenditure (REE), total energy expenditure (TEE), and energy intake in a group of 3- to 5-month-old infants with moderate to large unrepaired ventricular septal defects (VSDs) compared with age-matched, healthy infants.


Eight infants with VSDs and 10 healthy controls between 3 to 5 months of age participated in the study. Indirect calorimetry was used to measure REE and the doubly-labeled water method was used to measure TEE and energy intake. An echocardiogram and anthropometric measurements were performed on all study participants. Daily urine samples were collected at home for 7 days. Samples were analyzed by isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Data were compared using analysis of variance.


No significant differences were found in REE (VSD, 42.2 ± 8.7 kcal/kg/d; control, 43.9 ± 14.1 kcal/kg/d) or energy intake (VSD, 90.8 ± 19.9 kcal/kg/d; control, 87.1 ± 11.7 kcal/kg/d) between the groups. The percent total body water was significantly higher in the VSD infants and the percent fat mass was significantly lower. TEE was 40% higher in the VSD group (VSD, 87.6 ± 10.8 kcal/kg/d; control, 61.9 ± 10.3 kcal/kg/d). The difference between TEE and REE, reflecting the energy of activity, was 2.5 times greater in the VSD group.


REE and energy intake are virtually identical between the two groups. Despite this, infants with VSDs have substantially higher TEE than age-matched healthy infants. The large difference between TEE and REE in VSD infants suggests a substantially elevated energy cost of physical activity in these infants. These results demonstrate that, although infants with VSDs may match the energy intake of healthy infants, they are unable to meet their increased energy demands, resulting in growth retardation.

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