Background: Extremely preterm babies (delivered at <28 completed weeks of gestation) are frequently diagnosed with hypotension and treated with inotropic and pressor drugs in the immediate postnatal period. Dopamine is the most commonly used first-line drug. Babies who are treated for hypotension more frequently sustain brain injury, have long-term disability or die compared to those who are not. Despite the widespread use of drugs to treat hypotension in such infants, evidence for efficacy is lacking, and the effect of these agents on long-term outcomes is unknown.
Hypothesis: In extremely preterm babies, restricting the use of dopamine when mean blood pressure (BP) values fall below a nominal threshold and using clinical criteria to determine escalation of support ('restricted' approach) will result in improved neonatal and longer-term developmental outcomes. RESEARCH PLAN: In an international multi-centre randomised trial, 830 infants born at <28 weeks of gestation, and within 72 h of birth, will be allocated to 1 of 2 alternative treatment options (dopamine vs. restricted approach) to determine the better strategy for the management of BP, using a conventional threshold to commence treatment. The first co-primary outcome of survival without brain injury will be determined at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age and the second co-primary outcome (survival without neurodevelopmental disability) will be assessed at 2 years of age, corrected for prematurity.
Discussion: It is essential that appropriately designed trials be performed to define the most appropriate management strategies for managing low BP in extremely preterm babies.