Author(s): Ward RM, Lemons JA, Molteni RA
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: This survey estimated the frequency of use and adverse events associated with cisapride treatment of premature newborns in intensive care units. It was initiated in response to a warning issued in Canada cautioning against cisapride treatment of premature infants of <36 weeks' gestation and <3 months of age. METHODOLOGY: Surveys were mailed to 105 neonatology training program directors to obtain the total number of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admissions, the number of admissions of infants of <36 weeks' gestation, the number of years that cisapride had been used, the estimated percent/number of premature patients treated with cisapride per year, and the frequency and nature of arrhythmias or other adverse events associated with cisapride treatment. Of 105 programs, 46 responded to a single mailing of the first survey. A second survey mailed to the 45 respondents to the first survey sought to determine the indications, diagnostic tests, and dosages used with cisapride treatment of premature newborns. Of the 45 programs, 26 responded to the second survey. RESULTS: More than 58 000 premature newborns of <36 weeks' gestation were admitted to the NICUs we surveyed, and approximately 19\% were treated with cisapride. No deaths attributable to cisapride were reported among >11 000 preterm newborns treated. Three nonfatal arrhythmias were reported; two associated with 10-fold dosing errors and one with co-treatment with erythromycin, a macrolide antibiotic that reduces the metabolism of cisapride. Diarrhea was reported in 12 patients, and reversible liver enzyme changes were noted in one patient. Typically, cisapride treatment was started in dosages of 0.1 to 0.2 mg/kg/dose, repeated every 6 to 8 hours. Treatment usually was begun empirically, without a preceding study to document gastroesophageal reflux. The most frequent indications for cisapride treatment were choking or gagging, with associated apnea, bradycardia, and desaturation. Approximately 50\% of patients had discontinued cisapride treatment before discharge. Eighty-four percent of clinicians judged cisapride to be effective for the problems being treated. CONCLUSIONS: Cisapride treatment of premature infants of <36 weeks' gestation and <3 months of age in NICUs appears to be widespread in the United States. Complications and adverse events were seen when cisapride was administered in excessive dosages or in combination with a drug that inhibits its metabolism and leads to increased serum concentrations. Severe toxicities such as arrhythmias were reported with a frequency of <1/11 000 NICU admissions. However, in a retrospective survey, episodes of toxicity, including mortality, attributable to cisapride may not have been recognized or reported.
This article was published in Pediatrics
and referenced in Journal of Neonatal Biology