Vancomycin-induced ototoxicity in very-low-birthweight infants

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2020 Aug 1;75(8):2291-2298. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkaa156.


Background: Vancomycin is an extensively used anti-infective drug in neonatal ICUs. However, exposure-toxicity relationships have not been clearly defined.

Objectives: To evaluate the risk profile for hearing deficits in vancomycin-exposed very-low-birthweight infants (VLBWI).

Methods: In a large cohort study of the German Neonatal Network (GNN; n = 16 967 VLBWI) we assessed the association of vancomycin treatment and pathological hearing tests at discharge and at 5 year follow-up. We performed audits on vancomycin exposure, drug levels, dose adjustments and exposure to other ototoxic drugs in a subgroup of 1042 vancomycin-treated VLBWI.

Results: In the GNN cohort, 28% (n = 4739) were exposed to IV vancomycin therapy. In multivariable logistic regression analysis, vancomycin exposure proved to be independently associated with pathological hearing test at discharge (OR 1.18, 95% CI 1.03-1.34, P = 0.016). Among vancomycin-treated infants, a cumulative vancomycin dose above the upper quartile (>314 mg/kg bodyweight) was associated with pathological hearing test at discharge (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.21-3.64, P = 0.009), whereas a vancomycin cumulative dose below the upper quartile was associated with a reduced risk of pathological tone audiometry results at 5 years of age (OR 0.29, 95% CI 0.1-0.8, P = 0.02, n = 147).

Conclusions: Vancomycin exposure in VLBWI is associated with an increased, dose-dependent risk of pathological hearing test results at discharge and at 5 years of age. Prospective studies on long-term hearing impairment are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Ototoxicity*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vancomycin* / adverse effects


  • Vancomycin