Fish-oil lipid emulsions may prevent ROP

January 24, 2014

Premature infants with very low birth weight who receive an intravenous fat emulsion containing fish oil are less likely to develop retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), according to a recent study.

Premature infants with very low birth weight who receive an intravenous fat emulsion containing fish oil are less likely to develop retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), according to a study recently published in Early Human Development.

For this randomized controlled study, researchers sought to compare the effects of two lipid emulsions on the development of ROP in very low birth weight infants (N = 80). Infants received one of two lipid emulsions: group 1 (n = 40) received a fish-oil-based lipid emulsion (SmofLipid), and group 2 (n = 40) received a soybean oil based lipid emulsion (Intralipid).

Maternal and perinatal characteristics were similar in both groups, as were median duration of parenteral nutrition (14 days for both) and hospitalization (34 days for both). Complete blood counts, triglyceride levels, liver and kidney function tests before and after parenteral nutrition did not differ between the two groups.

ROP was diagnosed in two patients in group 1 and in 13 patients in group 2 (5.0% vs 32.5%, respectively; OR: 9.1, 95% CI: 1.9-43.8; P = 0.004). One patient in each group required laser photocoagulation. Upon multivariate analysis, researchers concluded that only receiving fish-oil emulsion in parenteral nutrition decreased the risk of developing retinopathy of prematurity (OR: 0.76, 95% CI: 0.006-0.911; P = 0.04).

"Although preterm infants benefit from diets supplemented with DHA very early in visual development, there are very limited data of DHA enriched parenteral nutrition in the first days of life in preterm infants," noted the authors. "In conclusion, fish-oil lipid emulsions may be preventive for ROP development in preterm infants requiring total parenteral nutrition. If these infants are minimally fed by enteral route and receive routine total parenteral nutrition that does not contain DHA, this condition might have an additive effect on ROP development. Multicentre studies are needed to assess this effect in preterm infants," they concluded.

To view the full text of this study, please click here.

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