The purpose of the present study was to test the hypothesis that newborns < or = 28 wk gestation who have a PCO(2) measurement in the lowest gestational age-specific quartile (hypocarbia) on the first day of life are not at increased risk for ultrasonographic white matter echolucency (EL) after adjustment for confounders. The sample consisted of 799 infants < or = 28 wk gestation born during 1991-1993. Forty-eight infants with EL were classified as cases and compared with 751 controls, i.e. those without EL. We performed univariable comparisons, stratified analyses, and multivariable logistic regression. In the univariable analyses, hypocarbia on the first day of life was associated with an increased EL risk. The odds ratios for the hypocarbia-EL relationship were prominently elevated in the strata of infants who did not have other major risk factors for EL (e.g. gestational age 26-28 wk, normothyroxinemia, no characteristics of antenatal infection). In the multivariable analyses, the association diminished after adjustment with a hypocarbia propensity score (odds ratio = 1.7; 95 % confidence interval, 0.8-3.2) or with potential confounders.