Objective: To examine the relationship between PaCO2 levels in ventilated very preterm infants and (i) the incidence of severe intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH) and periventricular leukomalacia (PVL); and (ii) bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD).
Methods: A retrospective cohort analysis of preterm infants comparing PaCO2 levels with the incidence of severe IVH/PVL and BPD was carried out on patients born at less than 29 weeks gestation from 1992 to 1994 and admitted to the tertiary neonatal intensive care unit at the King Edward Memorial Hospital (314 infants). During the first 96 h, PaCO2 levels were examined including lowest and highest PaCO2 levels, mean PaCO2 levels and duration of hypocarbia both pre- and post-surfactant administration.
Results: Of the 314 infants, there were 40 early neonatal deaths (less than 48 h) who were not included in the analysis. Of the 274 surviving infants, 72 (26%) infants had severe IVH. Infants whose PaCO2 fell below 30 mmHg at any stage in the first 48 h of life had an increased risk of severe IVH or PVL (odds ratio 2.38; 95% CI 1.27-4.49; P = 0.007). Of the 265 survivors to 36 weeks corrected gestational age, 134 (51%) had BPD. Infants with at least three PaCO2 values less than 30 mmHg in the first 24 h of life had an increased risk of BPD (odds ratio 2.21; 95% CI 1.05-4.57; P = 0.036).
Conclusions: The risk of severe IVH/PVL was significantly increased by hypocarbia. There was also an association between hypocarbia and BPD, particularly when hypocarbia was prolonged. These findings suggest that avoidance of hypocarbia may reduce the incidence of severe IVH/PVL and BPD in preterm infants.