Author(s): FriisHansen B
Water metabolism is a major problem in infants of very low birth weight. Their surface is proportionally larger, they have a relatively low intracellular water volume and a high extracellular and total body volume. Kidney function is immature compared to bigger infants, and the neuroendocrine function is also immature. Finally the large surface and the high skin permeability causes a very high insensible water loss in the early neonatal period. Water imbalance presents itself as either dehydration or overhydration. Dehydration gives poor peripheral--and renal circulation and thereby decreased renal function with acidosis. Furthermore hyperosmolar dehydration will give increased hematocrit and blood viscosity and hyperbilirubinaemia. Excessive administration of water will give oedema and congestive heart failure and possibly an increased risk for patent ductus arteriosus, bronchopulmonal dysplasia and necrotising enterocolitis. The evaporative water losses varies according to the thermal environment and air humidity and it is therefore impossible to give narrow limits for the daily water intake. Clinical examination, frequent controls of body weight (twice daily) and measurements of urine volume and osmolarity serve as guide lines. Yet inappropriate secretion of ADH may confuse the value of measuring urine osmolarity. Finally a neonatal weight loss of 5-10% may be beneficial as a decrease in extracellular water may lessen the working load of the heart and therefore possibly lessen the risk for a patent ductus. Renal immaturity in handling sodium reabsorption on the other hand, will often give an excessive dehydration. For this reason about 2 mmol Na/kg body weight should be given daily to very low birth weight infants from the fourth day of life to the 3rd-4th week if the baby is on human milk or a low salt formula.