To determine in extremely low birth weight (ELBW) infants if elevated blood inteferon-γ (IFN-γ), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-18, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) are associated with need for shunt following severe intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH), or with ventricular dilation following milder grades /no IVH.
Whole blood cytokines were measured on postnatal days 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21. Maximum IVH grade in the first 28d, and shunt surgery or ventricular dilation on subsequent ultrasound (28d -36 w PMA) were determined.
Of 902 infants in the NICHD NRN Cytokine study who survived to 36w/discharge, 3.1% had shunts. Of the 12% of infants with severe (Gr III–IV) IVH, 26% had a shunt associated with elevated TNF-α. None of the infants without IVH (69%) or with Gr I (12%) or II (7%) IVH received shunts, but 8.4% developed ventricular dilation, associated with lower IFN-γ and higher IL-18.
Statistically significant but clinically non-discriminatory alterations in blood cytokines were noted in infants with severe IVH who received shunts and in those without severe IVH who developed ventricular dilation. Blood cytokines are likely associated with brain injury but may not be clinically useful as biomarkers for white matter damage.