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Midazolam is used widely as a sedative to facilitate mechanical ventilation. This prospective study investigated the population pharmacokinetics of midazolam in very premature infants.Midazolam (100 [micro sign]g/kg) was administered as a rapid intravenous bolus dose every 4-6 h to 60 very premature neonates with a mean (range) gestational age of 27 weeks (24-31 weeks), a birth weight of 965 g (523-1,470 g), and an age of 4.5 days (2-15 days). A median (range) of four (one to four) blood samples, 0.2 ml each, were drawn at random times after the first dose or during continuous treatment, and concentrations of midazolam in serum were assayed by high-performance liquid chromatography. A population analysis was conducted using a two-compartment pharmacokinetic model using the NONMEM program.Average parameter values (interpatient percent coefficient of variation) for infants with birth weights 1,000 g or less were total systemic clearance (ClT) = 0.783 ml/min (83%), intercompartmental clearance (Cl (Q)) = 6.53 ml/min (116%), volume of distribution of the central compartment (V1) = 473 ml (70%), and volume of distribution of the peripheral compartment (V2) = 513 ml (146%). For infants with birth weights more than 1,000 g they were as follows: ClT = 1.24 ml/min (78%), ClQ = 9.82 ml/min (98%), V1 = 823 ml (43%), and V2 = 1,040 ml (193%). The intrapatient variability (percent coefficient of variation) in the data was 4.5% at the mean concentration midazolam in serum of 121 ng/ml.Serum concentration-time data were used in modeling the population pharmacokinetics of midazolam in very premature, ventilated neonates. Clearance of midazolam was markedly decreased compared with previous data from term infants and older patients. Infants weighing less than 1,000 g at birth had significantly lower clearance than those weighing more than 1,000 g.