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Infantile Hemangioma: Benefits to Starting Propranolol Early

Among patients with infantile hemangioma (IH), initiation of oral propranolol
3 mg/kg/day prior to 10 weeks of age was associated with a significantly better rate of treatment success, results from a post-hoc analysis of phase 2 and 3 clinical trial data showed.

“It is widely accepted that oral propranolol should be started early to improve the success rate, but proposed thresholds have lacked supportive data,” researchers led by Christine Léauté Labrèze, MD, of the department of dermatology at Pellegrin Children’s Hospital, Bordeaux, France, wrote in the study, which was published online in Pediatric Dermatology. In the pivotal phase 2/3 trial of propranolol of 460 infants, published in 2015, the mean initiation of treatment was 104 days, they added, but “in real-life studies, most infants are referred later than this.”

In addition, a European expert consensus panel set the ideal age for a patient to be seen by a specialist at between 3 and 5 weeks of age, while an American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Practice Guideline set the ideal age at 1 month.

To determine factors associated with a higher success rate with oral propranolol treatment, such as age at treatment initiation, the researchers analyzed data from the pivotal phase 2-3 clinical trial of oral propranolol in IH. They used Generalized Additive Model (GAM) charts with Generalized Linear Models (GLM), then a rule discovery algorithm, to identify subgroups presenting a high probability of occurrence of the predefined outcome: success at 6 months of treatment (defined as complete or nearly complete resolution of the target hemangioma). Study coauthors were Ilona J. Frieden, MD, of the department of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, and director of the UCSF Birthmarks & Vascular Anomalies Center; and Alain Delarue, MD, of medical affairs at Pierre Fabre Dermatologie, Lavaur, France, which markets the pediatric formulation of propranolol approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2014 for treating IH.

They found that patients who started oral propranolol 3 mg/kg/day before the age of 10 weeks had a success rate of 86%, while those who started treatment after 10 weeks of age had a success rate of 60%. “Our clinical experience suggested that starting early propranolol gave better results on infantile hemangiomas; however, we were surprised” by the significance of the difference, the three study authors stated in an e-mail reply to this news organization.

“It therefore seemed essential to communicate the importance of early treatment to maximize the possibilities of recovery for children. Our findings support early treatment of at-risk infantile hemangiomas, without waiting for complications such as ulceration and/or functional consequences,” they added.

In their e-mail reply, the authors stated that treatment of high-risk IH should be initiated whenever possible before 10 weeks of age. Ideally, infants should be examined by a practitioner between 2 and 5 weeks of age and referred to a specialized center if they have features of an at-risk IH. Tools such as the Infantile Hemangioma Referral Score (IHReS) and consensus guidelines such as the AAP Clinical Practice Guideline “can help guide clinicians seeing newborns and young infants to recognize which IH may need early intervention,” they stated.

For rural-based providers whose patients and their families may not live close to an expert center, the study authors especially recommend using the IHReS scoring tool, which is readily available online and “will be very helpful in assessing whether patients need referral.” For those who do, they added, “triage using photographs is an excellent way to reach out to a referral center for advice and possible urgent referral.” In addition, a recent study emphasized that telemedicine using either live interactive portals or store-and-forward can be helpful in evaluation and management of patients with IH.

Dr. Léauté Labrèze and colleagues acknowledged certain limitations of the analysis, including the fact that it was performed post-hoc on an existing study and the challenge of translating its findings into clinical practice.

The three study authors were also authors of the 2015 NEJM study; Dr. Léauté-Labrèze was the lead author.

Dr. Léauté Labrèze disclosed that she has served as a speaker and consultant for Pierre Fabre. Dr. Delarue is an employee of the company. Dr. Frieden reported having no disclosures relevant to the analysis.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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