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Neonatal catecholamine levels and neurodevelopmental outcome: a cohort study
  1. D J Evans,
  2. R J MacGregor,
  3. H G Dean,
  4. M I Levene
  1. Centre for Reproduction, Growth and Development, University of Leeds, D Floor Clarendon Wing, General Infirmary at Leeds, Leeds LS2 9NS, UK
  1. Dr Evans, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Southmead Hospital, Bristol BS10 5NB, UKevans_d{at}


AIMS To determine whether neonatal plasma catecholamine concentrations can be used to predict (a) death plus disability and (b) motor and cognitive impairment at 5 years of age.

METHODS A cohort comprised 136 preterm infants from two randomised controlled trials of neonatal sedation (1989–1992). Adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) were measured at baseline (first day) and 24 hours later. Intelligence and motor ability were assessed at 5–6 years.

RESULTS Infants who died or sustained disability had significantly higher plasma noradrenaline levels on the second day of life. Noradrenaline levels above 9.0 nmol/l were most predictive of death (likelihood ratio 3.27; 95% confidence interval 1.48 to 7.23) and death plus disability (likelihood ratio 3.55; 95% confidence interval 1.77 to 7.10). There was no correlation between neonatal catecholamine levels and cognitive or motor impairment at 5–6 years.

CONCLUSIONS Elevated noradrenaline levels are associated with adverse outcome in preterm infants; however, the power to predict death or disability is limited and they are not predictive of later motor or cognitive impairment.

  • adrenaline
  • noradrenaline
  • catecholamines
  • intelligence
  • motor function
  • predictive ability

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