The purpose of the present study was to determine if autoregulation of cerebral blood flow (CBF) is present in the preterm fetal lamb and, if present, to measure the range of mean arterial blood pressure over which autoregulation exists. Thirty-seven measurements of CBF were made in seven preterm fetal lambs (118-122 days gestation) over a mean carotid arterial blood pressure (CBP) range of 18-90 mm Hg. CBF was measured by the radionuclide-labeled microsphere technique. CBP was altered by graduated inflation of balloons placed around the brachiocephalic trunk and the aortic isthmus. To eliminate the effects of reflex changes in heart rate, the carotid sinus and aortic nerve were ablated bilaterally. CBF was linearly related to mean CBP from 18-45 mm Hg, constant over a mean CBP of 45-80 mm Hg, and again linear from 80-90 mm Hg. Resting mean CBP (normotension) was 53.8 +/- 1.9 mm Hg during the control period and 51.7 +/- 0.8 mm Hg during the equilibration periods. This study demonstrates that although autoregulation of CBF is intact in the preterm fetal lamb, the range is narrowed compared to the term lamb and resting mean CBP lies close to the lower limit of autoregulation.