Caffeine therapy helps to protect the lungs of premature infants from damage. An ongoing study, which is being led by McMaster University researchers have reported an early finding in a trial being undertaken to assess the safety of caffeine therapy for the treatment of apnoea of prematurity.
Apnoea of prematurity is very common in preterm infants, because the lungs are underdeveloped and the central nervous system, which automatically directs the body to breathe, is still immature and often not functioning properly. Though still not exactly known exactly how caffeine therapy helps these tiny babies breathe better, but its major benefits are believed to come from its stimulant effect on the respiratory system.
According to an article that appears in the May 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, state those infants who are being treated with caffeine therapy for apnoea needed less artificial assistance with breathing and had a lower incidence of abnormal lung development than infants who were given a placebo. Caffeine and similar drugs have been administered intravenously to regulate the breathing of preterm babies who suffer from apnoea for more than 25 years, the researchers pointed out.
Dr. Barbara Schmidt, a professor of paediatrics, clinical epidemiology and bio statistics at McMaster University Medical Center, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada the studies lead author explained that in this study they tested a treatment that has been in use for quite some time. Though studies on this had been conducted in the past, it was heir aim to rigorously examine the long-term safety of this treatment and the long-term effects, she said.
The researchers found that 36 percent of the 963 premature babies who received caffeine during the first 10 days of life were also given supplemental oxygen. They said that babies who received a placebo instead of the caffeine generally needed the extra oxygen. They found in their study that 47% of the 954 infants who received a placebo also received supplemental oxygen. The study also found that the babies who received caffeine were taken off ventilators one week sooner, on average, than babies who received the placebo.
They also noted that the only apparent side effect is that infants who received the caffeine gained less weight than babies who were given the placebo. But they also stated that this drawback disappeared after three weeks.
The researchers concluded that except for a temporary reduction in weight gain; caffeine has no apparent short-term risks. This Caffeine for Apnoea of Prematurity (CAP) project was studied on 2006 premature infants who were born between October 1999 and October 2004 in nine countries They also announced that the study will continue to follow the children until they turn five to obtain more precise information on their development.