Caffeine for the Treatment of Apnea in Bronchiolitis: A Randomized Trial

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To evaluate the efficacy and safety of caffeine citrate in the treatment of apnea in bronchiolitis.

Study design

Eligible infants aged ≤4 months presenting to the main pediatric emergency service with apnea associated bronchiolitis were stratified by gestational age (<34 weeks or longer) and randomized to receive a single dose of intravenous 25 mg/kg caffeine citrate or saline placebo. The primary efficacy outcome was a 24-hour apnea-free period beginning after completion of the blinded study drug infusion. Secondary outcomes were frequency of apnea by 24, 48, and 72 hours after study medication, need for noninvasive/invasive ventilation, and length of stay in the hospital's pediatric intensive care/step-down unit.


A total of 90 infants diagnosed with viral bronchiolitis associated with apnea (median age, 38 days) were enrolled. The rate of respiratory virus panel positivity was similar in the 2 groups (78% for the placebo group vs 84% for the caffeine group). The geometric mean duration to a 24-hour apnea-free period was 28.1 hours (95% CI, 25.6-32.3 hours) for the caffeine group and 29.1 hours (95% CI, 25.7-32.9 hours) for the placebo group (P = .88; OR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.83-1.17). The frequency of apnea at 24 hours, 24-48 hours, and 48-72 hours after enrollment and the need for noninvasive and invasive ventilation were similar in the 2 groups. No safety issues were reported.


A single dose of caffeine citrate did not significantly reduce apnea episodes associated with bronchiolitis.

Trial registration NCT01435486.

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