Objectives: Methylxanthines, including theophylline, have been used extensively and successfully to treat apnoea in preterm infants. However, long-term consequences of such therapy are largely unknown. The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between theophylline therapy and outcome at 14 years of age in surviving preterm children of birthweight < 1501 g.
Methodology: The subjects of this study were 154 consecutive survivors with birthweights < 1501 g born from 1 October 1980 to 31 March 1982; 130 (84.4%) were assessed at 14 years of age. Outcomes included motor function, psychological test scores, and growth.
Results: Of the 130 children assessed, 69 (53.1%) had been exposed to theophylline; 13.0% had cerebral palsy, significantly higher than 1.6% in the 61 children not exposed to theophylline (P < 0.02). This difference remained statistically significant after adjusting for potential confounding variables including the presence of cerebroventricular haemorrhage. In contrast, after adjusting for known confounding variables, children who had received theophylline achieved higher psychological test scores. There was no association between theophylline therapy and growth.
Conclusions: Theophylline therapy in the newborn period is associated with some evidence of harmful, but also helpful sensorineural effects at 14 years of age.