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Keywords:

  • Ferritin;
  • Iron supplementation;
  • Neonate;
  • Very low birth weight

Abstract

Aim: To evaluate if supplementing iron at 2 weeks of age improves serum ferritin and/or haematological parameters at 2 months of life in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants.

Methods: Preterm VLBW infants who received at least 100 mL/kg/day of oral feeds by day 14 of life were randomized to either ‘early iron’ (3–4 mg/kg/day orally from 2 weeks) or ‘control’ (no iron until 60 days) groups. Infants were followed up fortnightly and all morbidities were prospectively recorded. Serum ferritin was measured at 60 days by enzyme immunoassay method.

Results: Forty-six infants were included in the study; primary outcome was available for 42 infants. There was no difference in either serum ferritin (mean: 50.8 vs. 45.3 μg/L; adjusted difference in means: 5.8, 95% CI: −3.0, 14.6; p = 0.19) or haematocrit (32.5 ± 5.3 vs. 30.8 ± 6.3%; p = 0.35) at 60 days between the early iron and control groups. The magnitude of fall in serum ferritin from baseline to the end of study period was also not different between the groups (4.9 vs. 13.8 μg/L; difference in means: 8.8; 95% CI: −0.3, 17.9; p = 0.06). The requirement of blood transfusions (9.5 vs. 13%; p = 0.63) and a composite outcome of common neonatal morbidities (19% vs. 21.7%; p = 0.55) were also not different between the two groups.

Conclusion: Supplementing iron at 2 weeks of age in preterm VLBW infants did not improve either serum ferritin or the haematological parameters at 2 months when compared to the standard practice of starting iron from 8 weeks of age.