If the brain structure is assessed at neonatal intensive care units, covert clinical events related with subtle brain injury might be identified. The reduced scattering coefficient of near-infrared light (μ’) obtained using time-resolved near-infrared spectroscopy from the forehead of infants is associated with gestational age, body weight and Apgar scores, presumably reflecting subtle changes of the brain related to foetal growth and birth transition. One hundred twenty-eight preterm and term infants were studied to test whether μ’ obtained from the head at term-equivalent age is associated with foetal growth, birth transition and nutritional status after birth, which are key independent variables of developmental outcomes. As potential independent variables of μ’, birth weight, Apgar scores, age at full enteral feeding and post-conceptional age at the study were assessed to represent foetal growth, birth transition and nutritional status after birth. Subsequently, higher μ’ values were associated with higher Apgar scores (p = 0.003) and earlier establishment of enteral feeding (p < 0.001). The scattering property of near-infrared light within the neonatal brain might reflect changes associated with birth transition and nutritional status thereafter, which might be used as a non-invasive biomarker to identify covert independent variables of brain injury in preterm infants.© 2021. The Author(s).
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