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Randomised controlled trial of allopurinol prophylaxis in very preterm infants.
  1. G. A. Russell,
  2. R. W. Cooke
  1. Department of Child Health, Liverpool Maternity Hospital.


    Allopurinol, an inhibitor of xanthine oxidase (an enzyme capable of generating superoxide radicals following hypoxiaischaemia), was investigated in preterm infants to determine its ability to prevent the complications of neonatal intensive care which may be associated with oxidative injury. Four hundred infants of between 24 and 32 weeks' gestation were randomly allocated to receive enteral allopurinol (20 mg/ml) or an equivalent dose of placebo for seven daily doses. At admission, plasma hypoxanthine concentrations were significantly higher in infants who subsequently developed periventricular leucomalacia (PVL), bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), or retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), but there was no difference in the primary endpoint (PVL) between the treated and control groups. The failure of allopurinol prophylaxis in this group of infants is probably related to the complex nature of the pathological processes and to the timing of treatment. If oxidant injury is an important mechanism of cellular injury in these preterm infants, an alternative biochemical modulator would be required, or a combination of agents might be effective.

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