Despite safety concerns, β-sympathomimetics are still widely used as tocolytic agents. β-Blockers in turn are used to treat vasculo-proliferative diseases of the newborn such as retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which may lead to visual impairment and blindness. The scope of this study was to investigate whether antenatal exposure to the β-sympathomimetic fenoterol contributes to the development of ROP.
For this single-center retrospective case-control study of prospectively collected clinical data, all infants born before 32 weeks of gestation between 2001 and 2012 were included. The association of prenatal exposure to fenoterol and the development of ROP were analyzed by multivariate logistic regression.
n = 1134 infants < 32 weeks of gestation were screened for eligibility, out of which n = 722 met the inclusion criteria. Exposure to fenoterol (n = 505) was not associated with a higher rate of ROP (OR 0.721, 95% CI 0.463-1.122). Further, duration of exposure (days) did not alter the incidence of ROP (OR 1.001, 95% CI 0.986-1.016). Frequency distribution of different ROP stages and the need for therapeutic intervention was also not affected by prenatal exposure to fenoterol. Risk factors for the development of ROP like low birth weight, low gestational age, prolonged respiratory support and multiple gestation were confirmed in our large study cohort.
β-Sympathomimetic tocolysis does not increase the rate of ROP in premature infants born < 32 weeks of gestation. Our results render fenoterol a safe tocolytic agent regarding neonatal ROP development.