A Theoretical and Practical Approach to Defining “Adequate Oxygenation” in the Preterm Newborn
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John Scott Haldane recognized that the administration of supplemental oxygen required titration in the individual. Although he made this observation in adults, it is equally applicable to the preterm newborn. But how, in practice, can the oxygen requirements in the preterm newborn be determined to avoid the consequences of too little and too much oxygen? Unfortunately, the current generation of oxygen saturation trials in preterm newborns guides saturation thresholds rather than individual oxygen requirements. For this reason, we propose an alternate model for the description of oxygen sufficiency. This model considers the adequacy of oxygen delivery relative to simultaneous consumption. We describe how measuring oxygen extraction or the venous oxygen reservoir could define a physiologically based definition of adequate oxygen. This definition would provide a clinically useful reference value while making irrelevant the absolute values of both oxygen delivery and consumption. Additional trials to test adjunctive, noninvasive measurements of oxygen status in high-risk preterm newborns are needed to minimize the effects of both insufficient and excessive oxygen exposure.
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