Caffeine metabolism in premature infants

J Clin Pharmacol. 2001 Jun;41(6):620-7. doi: 10.1177/00912700122010500.


Caffeine has been used frequently in the treatment and prevention of apnea of prematurity. The metabolism of caffeine depends on the activities of the hepatic enzymes that vary from one infant to another. The objective of this study was to determine the influence of postnatal age (PNA), birth weight (BW), study weight (SW), gestational age (GA), postconceptual age (PCA), and gender on the maturation of caffeine metabolism in premature infants. The caffeine base was administered orally as a loading dose of 10 mg/kg, followed by a maintenance dose of 2 mg/kg every 24 hours. The steady-state concentration of caffeine and metabolites was measured in plasma taken on the 5th-day postloading dose. The molar concentration ratios for the N3 (N3-), N7 (N7-), N1 (N1-), and all methyl (Nall-) demethylation processes; clearance (CL); and the percentage of molar concentration of caffeine found in plasma to that of the total caffeine and metabolites (%CAF) were calculated from samples collected from 80 neonatal infants. The 48 male and 32 female premature infants had median (range) BW (g), GA (weeks), SW (g), PCA (weeks), and PNA (days) of 1300 (650-2260), 30 (24-34), 1630 (980-2670), 34 (29-40), and 28 (5-60), respectively. The median (range) of the ratios for the %CAF, CL, and the N3-, N7-, N1-, and Nall- were 86.9 (52.9-99.0), 0.127 (0.046-0.503), 0.032 (0-0.438), 0.070 (0.007-0.471), 0.026 (0-0.283), and 0.0463 (0.003-0.303), respectively. When the patients were stratified into four PNA age groups, each older group showed a consistently higher level of caffeine metabolic activity for the N3-, N7-, and Nall- pathways with a corresponding decrease in the %CAF, whereas no significant differences were seen for the N1-pathway or for CL. No pattern of significant differences between the demethylation process ratios, %CAF, or CL was seen between groups of infants when they were stratified according to BW, SW, PCA, or GA. The female infants were found to have significantly higher rates of caffeine metabolism as shown by %CAF, N1-, N3-, and Nall- processes but not the N7-. Multivariate linear regression analysis by two methods demonstrated that PNA is significantly related to %CAF and Nall-, whereas the female patients had higher levels of metabolic activity for the %CAF and N1- process. The authors conclude that the N7-demethy-lation process is the predominate caffeine metabolic process in premature infants. Furthermore, the maturation of the caffeine metabolism in premature infants with a PNA of less than 60 days increases with postnatal age, regardless of birth weight, gestational age, postconceptual age, and study weight. The female neonatal patients demonstrated a higher rate of caffeine metabolism than the males.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Birth Weight
  • Body Weight
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage
  • Caffeine / metabolism*
  • Caffeine / pharmacokinetics
  • Caffeine / therapeutic use
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / metabolism*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / growth & development
  • Infant, Premature / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Caffeine