Background Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is associated with poor long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes and an increased readmission risk because of respiratory conditions. Since the 2005 FDA approval of sildenafil for adults with pulmonary artery hypertension, and despite a 2012 black box warning against long-term use in 1–7 years’ old children due to increased risk of death at high doses, there has been an increasing trend of utilising the off-label preparation of sildenafil in infants.
Purpose A proof-of-concept randomised double-blind pilot study was conducted to investigate the use of sildenafil in preventing BPD in preterm infants.
Material and methods The pilot trial was conducted in the neonatal intensive care unit of the Women’s Wellness and Research Center. Infants with a gestational age of 240/7–296/7 weeks were eligible if they needed respiratory or oxygen support greater than or equal to 25%, and if they were at postnatal age of <24 hours at randomisation. Forty preterm infants were randomly assigned to receive off-label oral sildenafil (0.5 mg/kg every 6 hours) or a placebo solution, for 1 week. The primary endpoints were the incidence of BPD and death at 36 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA), and the occurrence of side effects. Secondary outcomes included the incidence of BPD and the provision of respiratory support at day 28 of life; duration of oxygen use; fraction of oxygen used at 36 weeks’ PMA and 28 days of life; duration of hospitalisation; the incidence of significant retinopathy of prematurity; and severe intraventricular haemorrhage, periventricular leukomalacia, necrotising enterocolitis, patent ductus arteriosus and sepsis.
Results No significant differences were observed between the sildenafil and placebo study groups in mortality (10% vs. 20%, p=1.00), respiratory support (30% vs. 25%, p=0.57) and side effects (0% vs. 0%) at 36 weeks’ PMA. No significant differences were also detected with any of the secondary outcomes.
Conclusion The off-label use of oral sildenafil did not demonstrate benefits in the prevention of BPD nor in reducing mortality in the extreme and very preterm infants. Future studies are needed to support the current off-label use of sildenafil in preventing BPD in this extremely vulnerable population.
References and/or acknowledgements We acknowledge the receipt of study funding by the Medical Research Center.
No conflict of interest.
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