Cerebral glucose deficiency versus oxygen deficiency in neonatal encephalopathy

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) in newborn infants is generally considered to result from decreased arterial oxygen content or cerebral blood flow. Cerebral injury similar to that of HIE has been noted with hypoglycemia. Studies in fetal lambs have shown that ventilation with 3% oxygen did not change cerebral blood flow, but ventilation with 100% oxygen resulted in marked reduction in cerebral blood flow, glucose delivery and glucose consumption. Blood glucose concentration falls markedly after birth; this, associated with the fall in cerebral blood flow, greatly reduces glucose supply to the brain. In preterm infants, blood glucose levels tend to be very low. Also, persistent patency of the ductus arteriosus may reduce cerebral flow in diastole, thus exaggerating the decrease in glucose supply. I propose that glycopenic-ischemic encephalopathy is a more appropriate term for the cerebral insult. We should consider more aggressive management of the low blood glucose concentrations in the neonate, and particularly in preterm infants. Administration of high levels of oxygen in inspired air should be avoided to reduce the enhancement of cerebral vasoconstriction and decreased flow that normally occurs after birth.

*Corresponding Author: 

Abraham M. Rudolph Department of Pediatrics, University of California San Francisco, Box 0544, CA 94143, USA. Tel.: +1 415 665 6841; E-mail: rudolpha@sbcglobal.net.