Background: Infants with neonatal encephalopathy (NE) of hypoxic-ischaemic origin are at risk of oxidative and ischaemia-reperfusion injury, which may induce abnormal inflammatory responses involving excessive cytokine production and release in serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Systemic inflammation is found in infants with NE, and we therefore were interested in cytokines associated with hypoxia, including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and erythropoietin (Epo). Objective: To investigate the relationship between Epo, VEGF levels, brain injury and outcome in a group of term infants exposed to perinatal asphyxia (PA) compared to controls. Methods: Serum and CSF biomarkers associated with hypoxia (VEGF, Epo) were serially measured using multiplex immunoassays over days 1-4 in term infants exposed to PA including infants with NE and controls. Results were compared to severity of encephalopathy, MR brain imaging and mortality. Results: Ninety-four infants had 247 serum samples collected (n = 12 controls, 82 exposed to PA with 34 CSF samples), and 4 infants died. Controls had significantly lower serum Epo levels on days 1 and 2 compared to those exposed to PA (p = 0.02). Grade II/III NE was significantly associated with elevated day 2 Epo and decreased day 1 VEGF (p < 0.05; day 2 Epo AUC = 0.74, cut-off 10.05 IU/ml). Elevated serum Epo was associated with severely abnormal MRI. Mortality was associated with elevated day 3 Epo and decreased day 1 VEGF. CSF levels were all after hypothermia and were not significantly associated with outcome. Conclusion: Serum Epo and VEGF may be markers of severity of hypoxia-ischaemia and brain injury as they are closely related to hypoxic exposure.

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