Background: Few studies have compared the efficacy and complications of dexmedetomidine (DEX) and fentanyl (FEN) in extremely preterm infants. Methods: We conducted a single-institution, retrospective controlled before and after study of preterm infants before 28 weeks of gestation admitted between April 2010 and December 2018 to compare the complications and efficacy of DEX and FEN for preterm infants. Patients were administered FEN prior to 2015 and DEX after 2015 as the first-line sedative. A composite outcome of death during hospitalization and developmental quotient (DQ) < 70 at a corrected age of 3 years was compared as the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes including postmenstrual weeks at extubation, days of age when full enteral feeding was achieved and additional sedation by phenobarbital (PB) were compared. Results: Sixty-six infants were enrolled into the study. The only perinatal factor that differed between the FEN (n = 33) and DEX (n = 33) groups was weeks of gestation. The composite outcome of death and DQ < 70 at a corrected age of 3 years were not significantly different. Postmenstrual weeks at extubation did not significantly differ between groups after adjustment for weeks of gestation and being small for gestational age. On the other hand, full feeding was significantly prolonged by DEX (p = 0.031). Additional sedation was less common in the DEX group (p = 0.044). Conclusion: The composite outcome of death and DQ < 70 at a corrected age of 3 years were not significantly different by DEX or FEN for primary sedation. Prospective randomized controlled trials should examine the long-term effects on development.
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