Importance: Lack of arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) after extremely preterm birth may contribute to preterm morbidity, including retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
Objective: To determine whether enteral supplementation with fatty acids from birth to 40 weeks’ postmenstrual age reduces ROP in extremely preterm infants.
Design, setting, and participants: The Mega Donna Mega trial, a randomized clinical trial, was a multicenter study performed at 3 university hospitals in Sweden from December 15, 2016, to December 15, 2019. The screening pediatric ophthalmologists were masked to patient groupings. A total of 209 infants born at less than 27 weeks’ gestation were tested for eligibility, and 206 infants were included. Efficacy analyses were performed on as-randomized groups on the intention-to-treat population and on the per-protocol population using as-treated groups. Statistical analyses were performed from February to April 2020.
Interventions: Infants received either supplementation with an enteral oil providing AA (100 mg/kg/d) and DHA (50 mg/kg/d) (AA:DHA group) or no supplementation within 3 days after birth until 40 weeks’ postmenstrual age.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was severe ROP (stage 3 and/or type 1). The secondary outcomes were AA and DHA serum levels and rates of other complications of preterm birth.
Results: A total of 101 infants (58 boys [57.4%]; mean [SD] gestational age, 25.5 [1.5] weeks) were included in the AA:DHA group, and 105 infants (59 boys [56.2%]; mean [SD] gestational age, 25.5 [1.4] weeks) were included in the control group. Treatment with AA and DHA reduced severe ROP compared with the standard of care (16 of 101 [15.8%] in the AA:DHA group vs 35 of 105 [33.3%] in the control group; adjusted relative risk, 0.50 [95% CI, 0.28-0.91]; P = .02). The AA:DHA group had significantly higher fractions of AA and DHA in serum phospholipids compared with controls (overall mean difference in AA:DHA group, 0.82 mol% [95% CI, 0.46-1.18 mol%]; P < .001; overall mean difference in control group, 0.13 mol% [95% CI, 0.01-0.24 mol%]; P = .03). There were no significant differences between the AA:DHA group and the control group in the rates of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (48 of 101 [47.5%] vs 48 of 105 [45.7%]) and of any grade of intraventricular hemorrhage (43 of 101 [42.6%] vs 42 of 105 [40.0%]). In the AA:DHA group and control group, respectively, sepsis occurred in 42 of 101 infants (41.6%) and 53 of 105 infants (50.5%), serious adverse events occurred in 26 of 101 infants (25.7%) and 26 of 105 infants (24.8%), and 16 of 101 infants (15.8%) and 13 of 106 infants (12.3%) died.
Conclusions and relevance: This study found that, compared with standard of care, enteral AA:DHA supplementation lowered the risk of severe ROP by 50% and showed overall higher serum levels of both AA and DHA. Enteral lipid supplementation with AA:DHA is a novel preventive strategy to decrease severe ROP in extremely preterm infants.