Fluctuations in cerebral hemodynamics have been implicated in the pathogenesis of acquired brain damage in babies born prematurely. This study examined the changes in cerebral fractional oxygen extraction (FOE) over the first 3 d after birth in 25 very-low-birth-weight preterm infants. Twelve infants had no major cerebral injury and 13 had acquired brain injury; cystic periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) was present in 4 and intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) in 9, of whom 2 also had hemorrhagic parenchymal infarction (HPI). Normal values (median, 5(th)-95(th) centiles) for cerebral FOE in very-low-birth-weight infants with no cerebral injury were 0.38 (0.23-0.53) on d 1, 0.31 (0.18-0.45) on d 2, and 0.28 (0.17-0.38) on d 3. Infants who developed cystic PVL had no significant change in cerebral FOE during the first 3 d after birth. By contrast, cerebral FOE fluctuated in infants with IVH over the 3 d of measurement, decreasing from d 1 to d 2 (p = 0.03) and increasing from d 2 to d 3 (p = 0.02). The highest cerebral FOE values were seen in the two infants with HPI. The different patterns of change in cerebral FOE with HPI and cystic PVL provide additional evidence that the pathogenesis of these two conditions is different. Because high cerebral FOE is likely to be a consequence of low cerebral oxygen delivery, probably because of low cerebral blood flow, our results indicate that fluctuations in cerebral blood flow may occur when there is IVH or HPI.