Apnea of prematurity is a developmental disorder affecting most extremely preterm infants.
The consequences of apnea of prematurity on neurodevelopment are not well established, but several reports suggest that apnea and hypoxemia episodes may be associated with worse neurological outcome.
Caffeine is the only FDA-approved drug for the prevention and treatment of apnea of prematurity.
Besides its clear effectiveness to reduce apnea, the use of caffeine appears to have a wide margin of safety and has been associated with possible beneficial effects on later neurodevelopmental outcome.
At the same time, there are also many studies in experimental animals and some in preterm infants suggesting potential serious adverse effects from caffeine administration, especially when using higher doses.
Because of these uncertainties, there is a wide variation in caffeine use across institutions.
This review summarizes some of the available evidence on caffeine use in this population, its indications and best timing of initiation and discontinuation, appropriate dosing, and some of the possible adverse effects of caffeine administration.