To compare and evaluate the efficacy and safety of immediate cord clamping (ICC) and delayed cord clamping (DCC) in preterm infants. We performed a comprehensive and systematic meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) assessing ICC and DCC in preterm infants by searching PUBMED, EMBASE, Science Direct, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, and Wanfang Database (from inception to 30 September 2020). Summary odds ratios or mean differences with 95% confidence intervals were calculated using a fixed- or random-effect model. A total of 20 RCTs with 1807 preterm infants were included in the study. DCC provided more benefits in increasing the haematocrit and haemoglobin levels at 24 hours of life (%), thus reducing the incidence of anaemia, necrotising enterocolitis, length of hospital stay and mortality than when ICC was performed. No significant differences were found between ICC and DCC in terms of peak bilirubin level; need for blood transfusion, mechanical ventilation (MV) and phototherapy; duration of MV and phototherapy; and incidences of intraventricular haemorrhage, retinopathy of prematurity, patent ductus arteriosus, respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, jaundice, polycythaemia, periventricular leukomalacia and bronchopulmonary dysplasia. DCC is a safe, beneficial and feasible intervention for preterm infants. However, rigorously designed and large-scale RCTs are necessary to identify the role and ideal timing of DCC.
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