SUPPORT Study Group of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD Neonatal Research Network, Carlo WA, Finer NN, Walsh MC, Rich W, Gantz MG, Laptook AR, Yoder BA, Faix RG, Das A, Poole WK, Schibler K, Newman NS, Ambalavanan N, Frantz ID 3rd, Piazza AJ, Sánchez PJ, Morris BH, Laroia N, Phelps DL, Poindexter BB, Cotten CM, Van Meurs KP, Duara S, Narendran V, Sood BG, O’Shea TM, Bell EF, Ehrenkranz RA, Watterberg KL, Higgins RD. Target ranges of oxygen saturation in extremely preterm infants. N Engl J Med. 2010 May 27;362(21):1959-69. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0911781. Epub 2010 May 16. PubMed PMID: 20472937; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2891970.
Previous studies have suggested that the incidence of retinopathy is lower in preterm infants with exposure to reduced levels of oxygenation than in those exposed to higher levels of oxygenation. However, it is unclear what range of oxygen saturation is appropriate to minimize retinopathy without increasing adverse outcomes.
We performed a randomized trial with a 2-by-2 factorial design to compare target ranges of oxygen saturation of 85 to 89% or 91 to 95% among 1316 infants who were born between 24 weeks 0 days and 27 weeks 6 days of gestation. The primary outcome was a composite of severe retinopathy of prematurity (defined as the presence of threshold retinopathy, the need for surgical ophthalmologic intervention, or the use of bevacizumab), death before discharge from the hospital, or both. All infants were also randomly assigned to continuous positive airway pressure or intubation and surfactant.
The rates of severe retinopathy or death did not differ significantly between the lower-oxygen-saturation group and the higher-oxygen-saturation group (28.3% and 32.1%, respectively; relative risk with lower oxygen saturation, 0.90; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.76 to 1.06; P=0.21). Death before discharge occurred more frequently in the lower-oxygen-saturation group (in 19.9% of infants vs. 16.2%; relative risk, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.60; P=0.04), whereas severe retinopathy among survivors occurred less often in this group (8.6% vs. 17.9%; relative risk, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.37 to 0.73; P<0.001). There were no significant differences in the rates of other adverse events.
A lower target range of oxygenation (85 to 89%), as compared with a higher range (91 to 95%), did not significantly decrease the composite outcome of severe retinopathy or death, but it resulted in an increase in mortality and a substantial decrease in severe retinopathy among survivors. The increase in mortality is a major concern, since a lower target range of oxygen saturation is increasingly being advocated to prevent retinopathy of prematurity.