Oxygen toxicity in the neonatal period

Acta Paediatr Scand. 1990 Oct;79(10):881-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.1990.tb11348.x.


Oxygen is toxic because it produces oxygen radicals. One important oxygen radical generating system is hypoxanthine-xanthine oxidase. Hypoxic newborn babies who have elevated concentrations of hypoxanthine in tissues and body fluids and simultaneously are treated with supplementary oxygen, may therefore produce oxygen radicals in excess overwhelming the body's natural defence systems against free radicals. Further, the capacity of many of these defence systems are probably reduced in the preterm baby. A series of conditions in neonates may, at least partly, be caused by oxygen radicals, e.g. bronchopulmonary dysplasia, retinopathy of prematurity, necrotising enterocolitis and patent ductus arteriosus. These conditions may be different facets of one disease; the "Oxygen radical disease in neonatology". It is speculated that oxygen radicals play a role in regulating the perinatal circulation. This new insight concerning the role of oxygen radicals may have fundamental consequences for treatment and handling of sick newborn babies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dogs
  • Free Radicals
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Oxygen / toxicity*
  • Rats


  • Free Radicals
  • Oxygen