IUGR newborns show a significant drop in brain oxygenation due to heart condition

Lead researcher

Dr Emily Cohen

Main finding

The ductus arteriosus, a connection between two major blood vessels of the heart, is a normal part of a baby's circulatory system before birth that usually closes shortly after birth. If it remains open, however, it can lead to disturbances within the newborn's blood circulation.

Newborns who are born too small for their gestational age (intrauterine growth restriction, IUGR) show a significant drop in brain oxygenation when this connection remains open, which may be harmful for the developing brain.


The Ritchie Centre

Research group

Child and Infant Health


Dr Laura Dix, Dr Willem Baerts, Dr Thomas Alderliesten, Dr Petra Lemmers, Prof Frank van Bel

Journal and article title

Most surprising

IUGR babies show increased blood flow toward the brain prior to birth. We had therefore expected that the open connection would effect their brain blood flow less than it does in normally grown newborns. In contrast to our hypothesis, IUGR newborns showed a significant and more pronounced drop in their brain oxygenation than normally grown newborns.

Future implications

IUGR newborns may be more prone to brain damage due to disturbances in their brain blood flow. Future research should investigate whether early screening for and treatment of such an open connection can prevent harmful fluctuations in brain oxygenation and improve neurodevelopmental outcome in IUGR babies.

Disease/health impact

Intrauterine growth restriction

Other points of interest

This data was collected and analysed at the Wilhelmina Children's Hospital in Utrecht, The Netherlands.