The Efficacy and Safety of Topical β-Blockers in Treating Infantile Hemangiomas: A Meta-Analysis Including 11 Randomized Controlled Trials

Dermatology. 2021;237(3):433-443. doi: 10.1159/000510029. Epub 2020 Oct 7.


Background: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of topical β-blockers in the treatment of superficial infantile hemangiomas (SIH) and mixed infantile hemangiomas (MIH), respectively, and compare the efficacy and safety of topical β-blockers with other interventions.

Methods: The PRISMA guidelines were adhered to. We searched for randomized controlled trials in databases from 2010 to 2018 comparing topical β-blockers with other interventions for infantile hemangiomas. The outcomes evaluated were efficacy and adverse effects. Data analyses were performed using RevMan 5.3. Publication bias was assessed to account for bias in patient selection.

Results: Eleven studies, involving 1,235 patients, were subjected to this meta-analysis. Six studies compared topical β-blockers with other interventions (propranolol, placebo, corticosteroids or pulsed dye laser) in treating SIH, and 5 studies evaluated the efficacy and safety of a topical β-blocker when it was combined with another intervention in treating MIH. A topical β-blocker was discovered to be as effective as oral propranolol in treating SIH (risk ratio, RR, 0.96, 95% confidence interval, CI, 0.91-1.02, p = 0.20, I2 = 0%), and topical β-blockers were more beneficial than placebo, corticosteroids or pulsed dye laser in treating SIH (RR 2.25, 95% CI 1.66-3.05, p < 0.00001, I2 = 0%). Topical β-blockers combined with another intervention gave rise to a better clinical response in the treatment of MIH than intervention alone (RR 1.99, 95% CI 1.10-3.60, p = 0.02, I2 = 55%) (standard mean difference 0.80, 95% CI 0.28-1.31, p = 0.002, I2 = 0%). Compared with oral propranolol, topical β-blockers were associated with fewer incidences of adverse effects (RR 0.05, 95% CI 0.01-0.39, p = 0.004, I2 = 0%). No significant difference in adverse effects was found when a topical β-blocker was combined with another intervention in treating MIH (RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.58-1.74, p = 0.98, I2 = 0%).

Conclusions: This meta-analysis provided evidence that topical β-blockers may replace oral propranolol as first-line therapy for SIH and that they are of additive value in treating MIH.

Keywords: Infantile hemangiomas; Meta-analysis; Propranolol; Randomized controlled trials; Timolol; Topical β-blockers.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Hemangioma / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists