The study, which is shortly to be published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, reports on 142 children living in Australia who had taken part in an international clinical trial to investigate the short- and long-term effects of caffeine therapy on preterm babies.
Five out of every 1,000 babies are born very prematurely and weigh only between 500 and 1,250 grams (1.1 and 2.8 pounds) at birth. Between 30 and 40 percent of these preemies either die or continue to live with lasting disabilities.
Previous studies have shown that caffeine, which belongs to a group of drugs known as methylxanthines, reduces apnea of prematurity, a condition in which the baby stops breathing for many seconds,” says lead author Lex W. Doyle, professor of neonatal pediatrics at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.
He explains that NICU use of caffeine also reduces the risk of injury and abnormal development in premature babies’ lungs. This condition, called bronchopulmonary dysplasia, can result in breathing difficulties later in life.