Should Propranolol Remain the Gold Standard for Treatment of Infantile Hemangioma? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Propranolol Versus Atenolol

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2023 Mar;132(3):332-340. doi: 10.1177/00034894221089758. Epub 2022 Apr 25.


Background: Although propranolol has been established as the gold standard when treatment is sought for infantile hemangioma, concerns over its side effect profile have led to increasing usage of atenolol, a beta-1 selective blocker.

Methods: A systematic review of PubMed, Scopus, CINAHL, Google Scholar, and Cochrane was conducted following PRISMA guidelines using MeSH terms and keywords for the terms propranolol, atenolol, and infantile hemangioma, including alternative spellings. All randomized control trials (RCTs) or cohort studies directly comparing outcomes of hemangioma treatment with atenolol and propranolol were included. A meta-analysis with pooled mean differences, pooled odds ratios, and analysis of proportions was performed.

Results: A total of 669 participants in 7 studies (3 RCTs and 4 cohort) were included. Propranolol showed a significantly higher rate of complete response compared to atenolol (73.3% vs 85.4%, P = .0004). The pooled mean difference of 0.07 (95% CI -0.12, 0.27) in Hemangioma Activity Score (HAS) was not statistically significant. In terms of side effects, there were significantly more agitation and bronchial hyperreactivity events in the propranolol group (P = .0245 and P < .0001, respectively). Overall, there was a significantly greater number of adverse events in the propranolol group compared to the atenolol group (185 vs 117, P < .00001). The overall pooled odds ratio was 2.70 (95% CI 1.90, 3.84), indicating that there is 2.7 times higher odds of adverse events in the propranolol group.

Conclusion: Propranolol treatment leads to a significantly higher rate of complete response than atenolol. However, its use must be weighed against its greater side effect profile.

Keywords: atenolol; beta-blocker; infantile hemangioma; propranolol.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Atenolol / therapeutic use
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Hemangioma* / drug therapy
  • Hemangioma, Capillary* / chemically induced
  • Hemangioma, Capillary* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Propranolol / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Propranolol
  • Atenolol
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists