OBJECTIVES

To determine whether maternal supplementation with high-dose docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in breastfed, very preterm neonates improves neurodevelopmental outcomes at 18 to 22 months’ corrected age (CA).

METHODS

Planned follow-up of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial to compare neurodevelopmental outcomes in breastfed, preterm neonates born before 29 weeks’ gestational age (GA). Lactating mothers were randomized to receive either DHA-rich algae oil or a placebo within 72 hours of delivery until 36 weeks’ postmenstrual age. Neurodevelopmental outcomes were assessed with the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development third edition (Bayley-III) at 18 to 22 months’ CA. Planned subgroup analyses were conducted for GA (<27 vs ≥27 weeks’ gestation) and sex.

RESULTS

Among the 528 children enrolled, 457 (86.6%) had outcomes available at 18 to 22 months’ CA (DHA, N = 234, placebo, N = 223). The mean differences in Bayley-III between children in the DHA and placebo groups were −0.07 (95% confidence interval [CI] −3.23 to 3.10, P = .97) for cognitive score, 2.36 (95% CI −1.14 to 5.87, P = .19) for language score, and 1.10 (95% CI −2.01 to 4.20, P = .49) for motor score. The association between treatment and the Bayley-III language score was modified by GA at birth (interaction P = .07). Neonates born <27 weeks’ gestation exposed to DHA performed better on the Bayley-III language score, compared with the placebo group (mean difference 5.06, 95% CI 0.08–10.03, P = .05). There was no interaction between treatment group and sex.

CONCLUSIONS

Maternal DHA supplementation did not improve neurodevelopmental outcomes at 18 to 22 months’ CA in breastfed, preterm neonates, but subgroup analyses suggested a potential benefit for language in preterm neonates born before 27 weeks’ GA.

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