We report significant neurological abnormality at 18 months of age in 3 of 7 very low birth weight infants (less than or equal to 1,500 g), who during mechanical ventilation inadevertently became severely hypocarbic (arterial carbondioxide tension less than 2.0 kPa (15 mmHg)) at some time during the first 24 h of life. Although the number is small the outcome was significantly worse than the outcome in two fairly similar groups of infants selected as controls (p = 0.026). The infants in one of the control groups were also mechanically ventilated but remained normocapnic. Germinal layer haemorrhage (GLH) was more frequent among these infants compared with the severely hypocarbic infants (p = 0.022). The infants in the other control group was not mechanically ventilated. In all the severely hypocarbic infants the Bayley mental developmental index uncorrected for prematurity was at or below the median for the total sample (p = 0.01). The results suggest that neonatal cerebral ischaemia, for instance due to hypocarbia, is of greater prognostic significance than GLH.