OBJECTIVE--To investigate serial changes in the pattern of flow in the pulmonary vein during the early neonatal period. METHODS--Pulsed Doppler echocardiography was used to measure flow in the right upper pulmonary vein in 26 normal newborn infants. Peak flow velocity during systole (S) and diastole (D) and flow velocity at indents between the systolic and diastolic fraction (O) and between the diastolic and systolic fraction (X) were measured 1, 4-8, 24, and 96 hours after birth. The heart rate and diameter of the ductus arteriosus were measured simultaneously. RESULTS--Continuous and phasic high flow velocity waveforms were seen 1 and 4-8 hours after birth. The mean (SD) peak flow velocities of X, S, O, and D an hour after birth were 35.2 (13.6) cm/s, 73.1 (23.1) cm/s, 58.5 (20.5) cm/s, and 81.5 (19.2) cm/s respectively. There were significant decreases in X, S, O, and D by 24 hours of age (p < 0.01 v 1 hour after birth) to 8.1 (10.3) cm/s, 52.8 (18.0) cm/s, 38.6 (14.5) cm/s, and 54.4 (11.2) cm/s respectively. These results indicate intermittent flow in the pulmonary vein, with flow stopping between diastole and systole. These flow velocities, X, S, O, and D, correlated well with the diameter of the ductus arteriosus (r = 0.80 v X, r = 0.62 v S, r = 0.63 v O, r = 0.75 v D). CONCLUSION--This serial study showed changes in normal pulmonary vein flow patterns during the early neonatal period. The continuous and high flow velocity waveform that was seen immediately after birth resembled the pattern of pulmonary vein flow seen in congenital pulmonary stenosis and in cases of acute volume overload. This waveform may reflect a sudden increase in pulmonary circulatory volume with additional left to right shunting through the ductus arteriosus in relatively hypoplastic pulmonary veins.