Early detection of delayed cerebral energy failure may be important in the prevention of reperfusion injury of the brain after severe perinatal hypoxia-ischaemia (HI). This study investigated whether monitoring of the redox state of cytochrome aa(3) (Cytaa(3)) with near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) after severe perinatal asphyxia may allow us to detect early a compromised energy metabolism of the developing brain. We therefore correlated serial Cytaa(3) measurements (to estimate mitochondrial oxygenation) simultaneously with the (31)phosphorous-magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((31)P-MRS)-measured phosphocreatin/inorganic phosphate (PCr/Pi) ratio (to estimate cerebral energy reserve) in newborn piglets before and after severe hypoxia-ischaemia. The animals were treated upon reperfusion with either allopurinol, deferoxamine, or 2-iminobiotin or with a vehicle to reduce post-HI reperfusion injury of the brain. Four sham-operated piglets served as controls. Before HI, the individual Cytaa(3) values ranged between -0.02 and 0.71 micromol/L (mean value: -0.07) relative to baseline. The pattern over post-HI time of the vehicle-treated animals was remarkably different from the other groups in as far Cytaa(3) became more oxidised from 3 h after start of HI onwards (increase of Cytaa(3) as compared with baseline), whereas the other groups showed a significant reduction over time (decrease of Cytaa(3) as compared with baseline: allopurinol and deferoxamine) or hardly any change (2-iminobiotin and sham-operated piglets). Vehicle-treated piglets showed a significant reduction in PCr/Pi at 24 h after start of HI, but the cerebral energy state was preserved in 2-iminobiotin-, allopurinol- and deferoxamine-treated piglets. With severe reduction in PCr/Pi-ratio, major changes in the redox-state of Cytaa(3) also occurred: Cytaa(3) was mostly either in a reduced state (down to -6.45 micromol/L) or in an oxidised state (up to 6.84 micromol/L) at these low PCr/Pi ratios. The positive predictive value (PPV) of Cytaa(3) to predict severe reduction of the PCr/Pi ratio was 42%; the negative PPV was 87%. A similar relation was found for Cytaa(3) with histologically determined loss of neurons.