A characteristic pattern of fluid homeostasis occurs in the first week of life in many preterm infants. Initially, urine output is low independent of fluid intake, subsequently a diuresis occurs, and finally urine output begins to vary with intake. Renal clearance measurements were made during each of these three phases to elucidate the renal mechanisms involved. Periods during which the ratio of urine output to fluid intake was ≥1 and urine output was ≥3 mL/kg/h were defined as diuretic. Of 22 preterm infants studied from 12 to 120 hours of age, 17 had at least one period of diuresis. In these infants, urine output, fluid intake rate, output to intake ratio, glomerular filtration rate, and fractional sodium excretion were lowest at 12 to 24 hours of age. During diuresis, urine output tripled without a significant change in fluid intake so that output to intake increased to levels exceeding unity. Diuresis was associated with significant increases in glomerular filtration rate and fractional sodium excretion. By 108 to 120 hours of age, urine output decreased despite an increase in fluid intake. This was accompanied by a decrease in glomerular filtration rate. These results suggest that the initial antidiuretic phase is the result of a low fractional sodium excretion in the face of a low glomerular filtration rate. Subsequently, diuresis and natriuresis occur as a result of abrupt, nonmaturational increases in glomerular filtration rate and fractional sodium excretion. With cessation of diuresis, glomerular filtration rate and fractional sodium excretion decrease and water and electrolyte output begin to vary appropriately with intake.

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