Evaluation of caffeine and the development of necrotizing enterocolitis

C. Cox*, N.G. Hashem, J. Tebbs, P. Brandon Bookstaver, V. Iskersky | JNPM 2016;

To test the association between medical or surgical necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and caffeine administration in premature infants. STUDY DESIGN: This single-center, retrospective study evaluated patients admitted to a level 3 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) over an 18–month period. All patients were evaluated for factors associated with the development of NEC including exposure to caffeine (dosing and duration), gestational age, birth weight, vasoactive medications and maternal illicit drug use. RESULTS: There were 615 subjects included in the study; among these subjects, 7.3% (n = 45) developed NEC (35 subjects receiving caffeine and 10 subjects not receiving caffeine). The administration of caffeine (p = 0.008), birth weight (p = 0.014) and the use of vasopressors (p = 0.033) were associated with the development of NEC. When considering only infants with a birth weight less than 1500 g and less than 32 weeks gestation, the effects of caffeine and vasopressor use remained statistically significant (p = 0.047 and p = 0.045, respectively). The time to development of NEC did not differ statistically between patients receiving caffeine and those not receiving caffeine (p = 0.129). CONCLUSION: A potential association between the administration of caffeine and the development of medical or surgical necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants exists. Further investigation of dose-dependent effects and loading doses is warranted.

*Corresponding Author: 

Christina L. Cox, Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Outcomes Sciences, South Carolina College of Pharmacy, University of South Carolina Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, 715 Sumter Street, Columbia, SC 29208, USA. Tel.: +1 803 777 1947; Fax: +1 803 777 2820; coxcl@sccp.sc.edu.