The aim of this study was to measure plasminogen in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of control neonates with no infection or haemorrhage and in infants who had suffered intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH). A chromogenic substrate method was used. The 16 reference infants had a median CSF plasminogen level of 0.74% of that of normal adult plasma (range 0.17-1.1%). The 11 infants with IVH had a median CSF plasminogen level of 0.55% of normal adult plasma (range 0-4.4%). Six of the IVH infants went on to develop permanent hydrocephalus despite the use of intraventricular plasminogen activators. Endogenous fibrinolysis and the potential for fibrinolytic treatment in the CSF may be limited by low concentrations of plasminogen, and administration of recombinant plasminogen may assist attempts to clear intraventricular blood clots.