Objective: To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of umbilical cord milking in preterm infants.
Design: Randomised controlled trials comparing umbilical cord milking with delayed cord clamping/immediate cord clamping in preterm infants were identified by searching databases, clinical trial registries and reference list of relevant studies in November 2019. Fixed effects model was used to pool the data on various clinically relevant outcomes.
Main outcome measures: Mortality and morbidities in preterm neonates.
Results: Nineteen studies (2014 preterm infants) were included. Five studies (n=922) compared cord milking with delayed cord clamping, whereas 14 studies (n=1092) compared milking with immediate cord clamping. Cord milking, as opposed to delayed cord clamping, significantly increased the risk of intraventricular haemorrhage (grade III or more) (risk ratio (RR): 1.95 (95% CI 1.01 to 3.76), p=0.05). When compared with immediate cord clamping, cord milking reduced the need for packed RBC transfusions (RR:0.56 (95% CI 0.43 to 0.73), p<0.001). There was limited information on long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes. The grade of evidence was moderate or low for the various outcomes analysed.
Conclusion: Umbilical cord milking, when compared with delayed cord clamping, significantly increased the risk of severe intraventricular haemorrhage in preterm infants, especially at lower gestational ages. Cord milking, when compared with immediate cord clamping, reduced the need for packed RBC transfusions but did not improve clinical outcomes. Hence, cord milking cannot be considered as placental transfusion strategy in preterm infants based on the currently available evidence.