Near infrared spectroscopy has been used to assess the effects of bradycardia and hypoxia on the cerebral circulation in the premature neonate. The technique is well tolerated and can be applied in almost any infant. Continuous monitoring of changes in cerebral oxygenated, deoxygenated, and total haemoglobin is possible. Total haemoglobin is analogous to cerebral blood volume; thus information on circulatory changes as well as oxygenation state can be obtained. Twenty five babies had cerebral monitoring carried out using this technique. During episodes of hypoxia, both spontaneous and induced, impairment of haemoglobin oxygenation within the brain was detected together with an overall increase in the total mean haemoglobin concentration, which was 0.8 x 10(-2) mmol/l. Bradycardia with apnoea also led to impairment of cerebral oxygenation, and to a rapid fall in the concentration of total mean haemoglobin to 1.4 x 10(-2) mmol/l, which was followed in some cases by an increase to above the resting value on recovery of the heart rate to a mean of 0.7 x 10(-2) mmol/l. These disturbances to total haemoglobin concentration represent abnormalities of cerebral blood volume that may be implicated in the pathogenesis of neonatal cerebral injury.
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