Effectiveness of nifedipine versus atosiban for tocolysis in preterm labour: a meta-analysis with an indirect comparison of randomised trials

BJOG. 2003 Dec;110(12):1045-9.


Objective: To explore the effectiveness of nifedipine compared with atosiban for tocolysis in preterm labour.

Design: A systematic review of randomised controlled trials with meta-analysis using adjusted indirect comparison.

Population: Six hundred and seventy-nine women recruited in nine randomised trials evaluating the effectiveness of nifedipine versus beta-agonists, and 852 women recruited in four trials of atosiban versus beta-agonists. There were no trials comparing nifedipine directly with atosiban.

Methods: We performed meta-analysis with a technique involving an adjusted indirect comparison between nifedipine and atosiban using beta-agonists as the common comparator. This approach preserves the benefit accrued by randomisation in the original comparisons.

Main outcome measures: Reduction in neonatal respiratory distress syndrome and delay in delivery by 48 hours.

Results: Nifedipine tocolysis was associated with a significant reduction in respiratory distress syndrome compared with atosiban (OR 0.55, 95% CI 0.32-0.97). It also increased the number of women whose delivery was delayed by 48 hours (OR 1.20, 95% CI 0.73-1.95), although this result was not statistically significant.

Conclusions: When indirectly compared with atosiban, nifedipine tocolysis is more effective. In the absence of a direct comparison, our analysis provides a way to explore the potential benefits of nifedipine versus atosiban.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nifedipine / therapeutic use*
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Tocolysis / methods*
  • Tocolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vasotocin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vasotocin / therapeutic use*


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Tocolytic Agents
  • atosiban
  • Nifedipine
  • Vasotocin