OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of erythropoietin in neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), by using a randomized, prospective study design.

METHODS: A total of 167 term infants with moderate/severe HIE were assigned randomly to receive either erythropoietin (N = 83) or conventional treatment (N = 84). Recombinant human erythropoietin, at either 300 U/kg (N = 52) or 500 U/kg (N = 31), was administered every other day for 2 weeks, starting <48 hours after birth. The primary outcome was death or disability. Neurodevelopmental outcomes were assessed at 18 months of age.

RESULTS: Complete outcome data were available for 153 infants. Nine patients dropped out during treatment, and 5 patients were lost to follow-up monitoring. Death or moderate/severe disability occurred for 35 (43.8%) of 80 infants in the control group and 18 (24.6%) of 73 infants in the erythropoietin group (P = .017) at 18 months. The primary outcomes were not different between the 2 erythropoietin doses. Subgroup analyses indicated that erythropoietin improved long-term outcomes only for infants with moderate HIE (P = .001) and not those with severe HIE (P = .227). No negative hematopoietic side effects were observed.

CONCLUSION: Repeated, low-dose, recombinant human erythropoietin treatment reduced the risk of disability for infants with moderate HIE, without apparent side effects.

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