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Gastroenterology Research and Practice
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 714564, 12 pages
Review Article

Pharmacological Therapy of Gastroesophageal Reflux in Preterm Infants

1Neonatology and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, S. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital, via Massarenti 11, 40138 Bologna, Italy
2Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences (DIMEC), University of Bologna, 40126 Bologna, Italy

Received 2 May 2013; Revised 22 May 2013; Accepted 12 June 2013

Academic Editor: Khean Lee Goh

Copyright © 2013 Luigi Corvaglia et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Although gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is a very common phenomenon among preterm infants, its therapeutic management is still an issue of debate among neonatologists. A step-wise approach should be advisable, firstly promoting nonpharmacological interventions and limiting drugs to selected infants unresponsive to the conservative measures or who are suffering from severe GER with clinical complications. Despite of this, a concerning pharmacological overtreatment has been increasingly reported. Most of the antireflux drugs, however, have not been specifically assessed in preterm infants; moreover, serious adverse effects have been noticed in association to their administration. This review mainly aims to draw the state of the art regarding the pharmacological management of GER in preterm infants, analyzing the best piecies of evidence currently available on the most prescribed anti-reflux drugs. Although further trials are required, sodium alginate-based formulations might be considered promising; however, data regarding their safety are still limited. Few piecies of evidence on the efficacy of histamine-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors in preterm infants with GER are currently available. Nevertheless, a significantly increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis and infections has been largely reported in association with their use, thereby leading to an unfavorable risk-benefit ratio. The efficacy of metoclopramide in GER’s improvement still needs to be clarified. Other prokinetic agents, such as domperidone and erythromycin, have been reported to be ineffective, whereas cisapride has been withdrawn due to its remarkable cardiac adverse effects.