Monitoring oxygenation in peripheral tissues of preterm babies may be useful in understanding the redistribution of blood flow during hypotension. Hemoglobin flow and venous saturation were measured in the forearm using near infrared spectroscopy with venous occlusion and were used to calculate fractional oxygen extraction, oxygen delivery, and oxygen consumption. Thirty ventilated preterm babies (median birth weight 976 g) were studied; 15 were hypotensive and 15 normotensive. Treatment for hypotension was dopamine alone (median dose 5 microg/kg/min) in eight cases, 4.5% human albumin solution (20 mL/kg) with dopamine in five cases, and only a blood transfusion (20 mL packed cells/kg) in two cases. There was a weak correlation between hemoglobin flow and mean arterial blood pressure (r = 0.40, p = 0.03). In hypotensive compared with normotensive babies, there was a significantly lower median hemoglobin flow (10.2 versus 20.2 micromol/100 mL/min, p = 0.0006), forearm oxygen delivery (37.8 versus 75.2 micromol/100 mL/min, p = 0.0008), and oxygen consumption (11.0 versus 23.9 micromol/100 mL/min, p = 0.006), but the fractional oxygen extraction (0.327 versus 0.306, p = 0.48) and the blood lactate concentration (1.22 versus 1.20 mmol/L, p = 0.44) were similar. Following treatment of hypotension, oxygen delivery (p = 0.02) and oxygen consumption (p = 0.04) increased to 64.2 and 21.7 micromol/100 mL/min, respectively, but fractional oxygen extraction (p = 0.81) and blood lactate concentration (p = 0.94) after treatment were unchanged. VO2 was variable in the forearm of human infants. It reduced when DO2 was low, and there was no evidence of tissue injury or switch to anaerobic metabolism. Measurements of peripheral tissue oxygenation seem to be of some value in understanding the pathophysiologic changes that occur with hypotension.