Neutral head positioning in premature infants for intraventricular hemorrhage prevention: an evidence-based review

Neonatal Netw. Nov-Dec 2011;30(6):381-96. doi: 10.1891/0730-0832.30.6.381.


With the advancement of neonatal medicine during the past several decades, premature and critically ill infants are living past the neonatal period and surviving. The survival of these infants at smaller birth weights and younger gestational ages puts them at an increased risk for intraventricular hemorrhages (IVHs). Although shifts in cerebral perfusion have been linked to the development of these brain bleeds, many seemingly benign care activities have been linked to changes in cerebral blood flow patterns, possibly contributing to IVHs. The purpose of this article is to evaluate the current evidence to determine if the practice of midline positioning for infants born less than 32 weeks gestation for possible IVH prevention is supported by the literature. Many of the researchers involved in these studies attributed the consequential venule leakage of blood to occlusion of the jugular venous drainage system following a turn in the position of the head. Additionally, the articles that examined the connection between the effects of head tilting on brain hemodynamics attributed changes on the infants' potential inability to autoregulate cerebral blood flow adequately. Both of these findings were linked to the development of IVHs. Based on physiologic data and expert opinion, the authors found support in the literature and recommend implementing a plan of care that includes midline head positioning for premature infants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / prevention & control*
  • Cerebral Ventricles / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Ventricles / blood supply*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / etiology
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Patient Positioning / methods*
  • Ultrasonography