(HealthDay News) — Early administration of high-dose erythropoietin is associated with a reduced risk of brain injury on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in premature infants, according to research published in the Aug. 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Russia Ha-Vinh Leuchter, MD, of the University Hospital of Geneva, and colleagues randomly assigned infants to receive recombinant human erythropoietin (256 participants) or placebo (239 participants) intravenously before three hours, at 12 to 18 hours, and at 36 to 42 hours after birth. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans acquired at term-equivalent age were evaluated for a nonrandomized subset of 77 infants receiving erythropoietin and 88 infants receiving placebo.

The researchers found that at term-equivalent age, fewer infants in the erythropoietin group, compared with the placebo group, had abnormal scores for white matter injury, white matter signal intensity, periventricular white matter loss, and gray matter injury. The birth weight-adjusted risk ratio for infants receiving erythropoietin versus placebo was 0.58 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.35–0.96) for white matter injury; 0.20 (95% CI, 0.05–0.90) for white matter signal intensity; 0.53 (95% CI, 0.30–0.92) for periventricular white matter loss; and 0.34 (95% CI, 0.13–0.89) for gray matter injury.

“In an analysis of secondary outcomes of a randomized clinical trial of preterm infants, high-dose erythropoietin treatment within 42 hours after birth was associated with a reduced risk of brain injury on MRI,” the authors write.

Two authors disclosed receiving research grants from Nestle.

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