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Clin Perinatol. 2004 Sep;31(3):431-43.

The role of oxygen in neonatal resuscitation.

Author information

  • Department of Pediatric Research, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, University of Oslo, Oslo 0027, Norway. o.d.saugstad@klinmed.uio.no


New knowledge has accumulated in recent years making it prudent to ask questions regarding current oxygenation policies and guidelines. Because new-born resuscitation affects so many individuals, and because resuscitation procedures may have dramatic consequences on infant and child health, intensified discussion and research in this field are not only necessary but are a requirement. In particular, there is a lack of data on infants born before term. It is difficult to give absolute recommendations on which oxygen concentration should be applied for newborn resuscitation; however, it seems that ambient air is safe. It is easy to handle, is always at hand, and is inexpensive. Conversely, regarding 100% O2, I believe we have sufficient data to conclude that this should not be given routinely at birth to depressed infants; however, whether it is beneficial or harmful to start out resuscitation with 30%, 40%, or 60% O2 is not known. No data exist to answer this question. A call for more research in this area is timely. The effect of pure oxygen on cell growth and cell death, gene activation, and possibly DNA damage should be carefully investigated. Even before such data are collected, it is known that pure oxygen at birth triggers long-term and poorly understood effects. Oxygen obviously is more toxic than previously thought, and oxygen given to small infants has a 50-year history of uncertain benefits. Table 1 summarizes the pros and cons of using 21%versus 100% 02 for newborn resuscitation. Brain circulation as assessed by microspheres is restored as quickly with 21% O2 as it is with 100% O2; however, microcirculation is somewhat slower. Metabolism, pulmonary flow, and myocardial performance are normalized just as quickly by 21% and 100% O2. Brain injury as assessed by glycerol augmentation, matrix injury, and neonatal mortality is less in infants given 21% versus 100% O2.

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