Background: Neonatal hypoglycaemia is common, and a preventable cause of brain damage. Dextrose gel is used to reverse hypoglycaemia in individuals with diabetes; however, little evidence exists for its use in babies. We aimed to assess whether treatment with dextrose gel was more effective than feeding alone for reversal of neonatal hypoglycaemia in at-risk babies.
Methods: We undertook a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial at a tertiary centre in New Zealand between Dec 1, 2008, and Nov 31, 2010. Babies aged 35-42 weeks' gestation, younger than 48-h-old, and at risk of hypoglycaemia were randomly assigned (1:1), via computer-generated blocked randomisation, to 40% dextrose gel 200 mg/kg or placebo gel. Randomisation was stratified by maternal diabetes and birthweight. Group allocation was concealed from clinicians, families, and all study investigators. The primary outcome was treatment failure, defined as a blood glucose concentration of less than 2·6 mmol/L after two treatment attempts. Analysis was by intention to treat. The trial is registered with Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, number ACTRN12608000623392.
Findings: Of 514 enrolled babies, 242 (47%) became hypoglycaemic and were randomised. Five babies were randomised in error, leaving 237 for analysis: 118 (50%) in the dextrose group and 119 (50%) in the placebo group. Dextrose gel reduced the frequency of treatment failure compared with placebo (16 [14%] vs 29 [24%]; relative risk 0·57, 95% CI 0·33-0·98; p=0·04). We noted no serious adverse events. Three (3%) babies in the placebo group each had one blood glucose concentration of 0·9 mmol/L. No other adverse events took place.
Interpretation: Treatment with dextrose gel is inexpensive and simple to administer. Dextrose gel should be considered for first-line treatment to manage hypoglycaemia in late preterm and term babies in the first 48 h after birth.
Funding: Waikato Medical Research Foundation, the Auckland Medical Research Foundation, the Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust, the Health Research Council of New Zealand, and the Rebecca Roberts Scholarship.
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