Aim: To clarify clinical interactions between early hypocarbia, periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and cerebral palsy of preterm infants.
Methods: Serial measurements of PaCO2 using arterial blood samples at 3, 6, 12, 24 and 48 h of life were performed for 115 very-low-birthweight infants admitted between 1995 and 1999. Severe early hypocarbia, defined when at least two of five PaCO2 values showed 3.3 kPa or less, was observed in eight infants (hypocarbia group). Preterm PVL was diagnosed by serial ultrasonographic examinations and cranial magnetic resonance imaging, and subsequently classified into early-onset PVL diagnosed within 14 d, or late-onset PVL after 14 d. Perinatal risk factors for early hypocarbia were investigated from the mothers' records and interviews with obstetricians.
Results: The average birthweight in the hypocarbia group was significantly smaller than that in the control group (p < 0.01). The occurrence of PVL in the hypocarbia group was not different from that in the control group. Early hypocarbia was significantly related to late-onset PVL (p < 0.001), but not related to early-onset PVL. The incidence of cerebral palsy in the hypocarbia group was significantly higher than that in the control group (p < 0.001). Multivariate analysis showed that both low birthweight and number of maternal previous abortions were predictive for early hypocarbia.
Conclusion: Early hypocarbia of preterm infants in our hospital was significantly associated with both cerebral palsy and late-onset PVL, but not with early-onset PVL. The background of the three clinical events, early hypocarbia, PVL, and cerebral palsy, may not be identical in human newborns.