Episodes of hypocarbia and early-onset sepsis are risk factors for cystic periventricular leukomalacia in the preterm infant

Early Hum Dev. 2012 Jan;88(1):27-31. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2011.06.011. Epub 2011 Jul 12.


Background: Septic episodes in preterm infants recently have been reported to be associated with periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). The role of hypocarbia as an independent risk factor for PVL in clinical studies raises many questions without conclusive answers.

Aims: To evaluate risk factors for cystic PVL focussing on the influence of hypocarbia.

Study design: Retrospective single centre case-control study.

Subjects: Preterm infants 24 to 35 weeks of gestational age and matched (1:2 for gender, birth year, gestational age and birth weight) controls.

Outcome measures: Multivariate analysis of perinatal factors being associated with cystic PVL diagnosed by serial ultrasound examinations.

Results: Univariate analysis of risk factors revealed lower 5 and 10 min Apgar scores, and higher rates of neonatal seizures, early-onset sepsis, neonatal steroids, respiratory distress syndrome with surfactant replacement therapy, and episodes of hypocarbia significantly being associated with PVL. Multivariate analysis using a logistic regression model revealed early-onset sepsis and hypocarbia being significantly associated with PVL (p=.022 and .024, respectively). Lowest PaCO(2) values did not differ as did not the duration of hypocarbia, but the onset of hypocarbia was significantly later in PVL cases compared to controls (mean 26 vs. 15 h, p=.033). Neurodevelopmental follow-up at a median time of 46 months was poor showing 88% of the cases having an adverse neurological outcome.

Conclusion: We found early-onset sepsis and episodes of hypocarbia within the first days of life being independently associated with PVL.

MeSH terms

  • Apgar Score
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Hypocapnia / complications*
  • Hypocapnia / diagnosis
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Leukomalacia, Periventricular / complications
  • Leukomalacia, Periventricular / diagnosis*
  • Leukomalacia, Periventricular / diagnostic imaging
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Neonatal Screening / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sepsis / complications*
  • Ultrasonography